SOMERVELL COUNTY — You might never think about it, but when you turn your lights on or cool your home, the power you're using might be coming from the Comanche Peak power plant, which began operating 23 years ago.
Its twin nuclear reactors located 40 miles southwest of Fort Worth are creating enough power to serve about 460,000 homes on the hottest day of the year.
The Comanche Peak control room looks and feels like a Hollywood set. But the storyline here is offering power so reliable that customers never even think about it, even on the hottest days.
"Generally, we run the same way every day," said Ken Peters, who runs the facility at 100 percent capacity for its owner, Luminant.
While companies like Luminant have other power plants they can fire up during peak demand, Comanche Peak is a workhorse, providing a sizable part of the electricity base load Texans depends on.
"It's a mission that we relish, and we’re proud of doing our part to help our company and the state," Peters said.
Nuclear power is always controversial with the meltdown in Japan still top of mind. There is still nowhere to permanently store spent nuclear fuel in this country, which means it all must be stored on site at each individual plant.
In the spring, to prepare for peak summer demand, the operators of Comanche Peak make sure maintenance is up to date, spare parts are on hand, and the huge exchangers are working well.
Then — it's "game on."
"To make sure that all of the equipment is in very good condition to be able for the plant to run at 100 percent through the hottest parts of the summer," Peters said.
Luminant has applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build two additional reactors at Comanche Peak. The company said the soonest those permits could be approved is 2016, although the company hasn't yet committed to actually building any new facilities.
Despite the stretch of high temperatures blanketing North Texas, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas — which operates the state’s power grid — says there is ample electric supply to keep the lights on.
ERCOT spokesperson Robbie Searcy said the grid is "operating beautifully," adding that wind power — which doesn’t always blow when you need it &dmash; was making a strong contribution to the grid on Wednesday.
That's a contrast to 2011, when — at times — demand nearly outstripped supply. ERCOT says power generating companies across Texas have done a particularly good job keeping their plants operational at this critical time.