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'Nuclear' snow in Pennsylvania?


The Beaver Valley Power Plant contributed to an extra 2 cm of snow in the surrounding area on Wednesday (courtesy: NRC // file photo)
The Beaver Valley Power Plant contributed to an extra 2 cm of snow in the surrounding area on Wednesday (courtesy: NRC // file photo)

Staff writers

January 23, 2013 — Not exactly. But the Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Plant near Shippingport helped generate more than 2 centimetres of snow on Wednesday.

When steam meets frigid air, it can create snow (file photo)
When steam meets frigid air, it can create snow (file photo)

Freezing temperatures, mixed with steam from Pennsylvania's Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Plant, created an extra two centimetres of snow on Wednesday.

"The steam was created by cooling towers, which operate by drawing water from a nearby source, like a lake, and then releasing that moisture back into the atmosphere as steam," explains Mark Robinson, a meteorologist at The Weather Network.

But while snow may have come from a power plant, the only thing nuclear about it is its name.

"The snow isn't hazardous," Robinson says. "Cooling stack moisture is free of contaminants."

Last year, our own Natalie Thomas created a similar effect on a smaller scale.

She turned steam into snow by throwing a cup of boiling water into frigid air.

It's a simple experiment that anyone can re-create -- provided that it's cold enough.

And here in Canada, it's colder than ever.

An Arctic air mass has sent the temperatures plunging, triggering a bevy of windchill warnings in parts of Atlantic Canada, Quebec and southern Ontario.

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