Palo Verde Generating Station

Calvin Chandler II
March 13, 2016

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2016


Fig. 1: An overhead view of the Palo Verde Generating Station in Wintersburg, Arizona. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Today nuclear energy represents roughly 20% of all electricity in the United States. [1] The largest of these nuclear energy sites resides in Wintersburg, Arizona and is named the Palo Verde Generating Station. After 10 years of hard labor, it was constructed in 1986. The owners of the nuclear power plant are the Arizona Public Service Company, The Salt River Project, El Paso Electric Company, Southern California Edison, PNM Resources and other minor electric companies. However, The Arizona Public Service company oversees all operations. The Palo Verde Generating Station is the largest of its kind today and contains three pressurized water reactors. These reactors work via the energy created from the splitting radioactive uranium atoms. This energy is converted into heat, which further generates steam from nearby pressurized water chambers. This steam then propels large turbines, which harness and store the energy. Later the same steam from this reaction is cooled down and often recycled to continue the power cycle later. Unlike other traditional nuclear reactors, the Palo Verde Generating Station is not located near any large body of water. Instead, it gathers all the necessary water for operations from nearby sewage. This is important since most of Arizona is located within a desert where water resources are already scarce. Despite not being built near a river however, The Palo Verde Generating Station has often times led American nuclear power plants in efficiency, operating at 90% full capacity. [1] Looking at Fig. 1, it is easy to discern the sheer size of the Palo Verde Generating Station.


There are many compelling benefits as to why the Palo Verde Generating Station is worthwhile. Firstly, the generating station produces more than 30.9 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, which was a national generating record. [1] This power is responsible for 35% of all energy consumed in the state of Arizona. [1] The station also exports large amounts of energy to California and Texas, as it is a major supplier of energy to the city of Los Angeles. The station has became a very competitive source of energy for the region as it operates at a cost of 1.33 cents per kilowatt-hour which is significantly less than the 2.53 cents per kilowatt-hour mark of nearby competitors. [1] This low pricing has led people to use this source of energy of the likes of fossil fuels. As a result, it is estimated that this plant has reduced carbon emissions by around 484 million metric tons. [1] In addition to being the largest nuclear energy provider in the United States, the generating station also employs over 2,900 workers as well as donates one million dollars to local charities each year. [2] This serves as a great source of stimulating the state economy and providing jobs to many of those seeking employment as it serves as the largest employer in the region. As a result of its large facilities and high efficiency standards, the Palo Verde Generating Station supplies roughly 1.72 billion dollars of energy each year. This makes it one of the largest energy industries in the United States. [1]


The Palo Verde Generating Station has not came without its fair share of controversy however. For commonly known reasons, nuclear radioactive material can be very dangerous if handled improperly. Such health concerns are higher risks of cancer, mental illnesses as well as severe damage to internal organs that could be life threatening. Due to its near proximity to large metropolitan areas such as Phoenix, the Palo Verde Generating Station has been placed in category 4 of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations meaning that it is very closely monitored. Furthermore, as seen in Japan recently, earthquakes can be a major concern for Nuclear Power plants as such seismic activity can rupture the carefully made containment reaction cores that contain the nuclear material. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has ranked this reactor at #18 of hundreds of different plants in America, meaning that it is relatively stable. Lastly, expenditures for maintaining such a plant are over 417 million dollars each year with the largest portion of these costs going to labor. [1] Due to the large annual output however, this cost is relatively insignificant.


While not entirely fool proof, the Palo Verde Generating Station serves as a integral part of the Arizona as well as the national economy. The large outputs of power for a cheap price make it one of the most important energy manufacturers in the entire country. As long as proper care is administered and it is monitored closely, the Palo Verde Generating Station will continue to be cornerstone in the energy producing field.

© Calvin Chandler II. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] "Economic Benefits of Palo Verde Nuclear Generation Station," Nuclear Energy Institute, November 2004.

[2] "Economic Impacts of Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station on Arizona," Applied Economics, 2010.