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How electricity works

By Todd Welvaert, Dispatch/Argus Staff writer

CORDOVA -- Electricity has become such a intrinsic part of our lives it's easy to forget the juice you use to toast that pastry came from a nuclear fuel rod at a distant generator, at nearly the speed of light.

It does. It's created in the reactors at the Quad City Nuclear Generating Station and shipped to your home almost simultaneously, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, faster than you can flip a switch.

It all starts at the reactors. Huge vessels, pin-cushioned with fuel rods, split atoms in a controlled radioactive burn. The heat created boils water to create steam. The steam spins turbines, and the turbines create electricity.

From there, the current passes through a transformer which steps up the voltage, which is determined by how far it must be transmitted. Once the voltage is stepped up, the current enters the grid, an interconnected array of wires that run across the country.

The current is stepped down at another substation transformer. Once it is stepped down, it goes to a pole transformer, where it is stepped down again to 120 or 240 volts and into your home.

There it waits for your demand, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, faster than you can flip a switch.

Copyright 1999, Moline Dispatch Publishing Co.