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First Energy (Duquesne Light, Beaver Valley Power Station)

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Duquesne Light, Beaver Valley Power Station
1976 Unit No. 1, 1987 Unit No. 2, Stone and Webster, contractors. PA 168 at Shippingport Rd.

With steam billowing from their hulking curves, the 505-foot hyperbolic cooling towers of the Beaver Valley nuclear power station dominate the Ohio River shore twenty-two miles northwest of Pittsburgh's Point. The power station, one of approximately 104 nuclear facilities in the United States, generates nearly 1,643,000 kilowatts of power at peak capacity. It was the site of the first commercial nuclear power plant in the nation, and its opening in 1957 was viewed as a renewal of American's faith in science: “The force that blasted Hiroshima will light our Christmas trees this year,” stated the Pittsburgh Press newspaper in December 1957. The plant was a joint project of the United States Atomic Energy Commission and Duquesne Light Company. Construction was overseen by Rear Admiral Hyman G. Rickover and the Westinghouse Electric Company. The station was retired from service after twenty-five years of operation in 1982, and all but the office structure was dismantled between 1984 and 1989.

The plant of 1957 was replaced by the 185-foot-high dome-shaped concrete reactor containment buildings of Units No. 1 and No. 2. These are designed to withstand earthquakes, floods, and tornados, while protecting against the release of radioactive material. Each is 126 feet in diameter and constructed of four-and-a-half-foot-thick steel reinforced concrete walls with ten-foot-thick bases. An inner steel liner is three-eighths of an inch thick. The site was listed as a landmark by the Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1980. To the east, the coal-burning power plant of the Bruce Mansfield Power Station adds to the drama of the site with three more hyperbolic cooling towers and two enormous smokestacks.

Writing Credits

Lu Donnelly et al.


What's Nearby


Lu Donnelly et al., "First Energy (Duquesne Light, Beaver Valley Power Station)", [Aliquippa, Pennsylvania], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of PA vol 1

Buildings of Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, Lu Donnelly, H. David Brumble IV, and Franklin Toker. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010, 157-157.

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