My husband's aunt and uncle have lived on a lake in Virginia for twenty years. It's an idyllic setting: Secluded neighborhood, an abundance of flora and fauna, and of course, the lake, Lake Anna. About an hour's drive on narrow, winding country roads northwest of Richmond, Lake Anna has an unusual history. It's a manmade lake, which isn't so special since there are plenty of lakes around the world that are manmade, but the unique aspect of Lake Anna is the reason it's manmade. It was created in 1972 to cool the North Anna nuclear reactor.
Yep. Nuclear reactor. According to Dominion Power's website, the power plant began commercial operation in 1978, with a second unit opening in 1980. Back then there were very few residents, but the population has steadily grown. A 2000 census reports the population of the Lake Anna area (comprising Louisa, Orange and Spotsylvania counties) at 157,000. Not sure how many of those folks live around the lake, but it's getting fairly crowded down there. But not annoyingly so; there is still plenty of nature and solitude.
One day last month Marc, his mother, and I spent a lovely day at the lake visiting with Marc's aunt and uncle and taking a boat ride around the lake. With Uncle Don guiding us, we toured the entire seventeen miles of the lake, the second largest fresh-water inland lake in Virginia.
Zipping by the lush greenery and the construction of new houses, we made our way to the nuclear power plant, seen below.
It's the dome way in the background. It's not a place you can just boat up to - there are buoys marking the "that's close enough" zone - but it was amazing (not to mention scary) to get as close as we did.
Don took us to a spot known to have eagles' nests, but alas, we didn't see any on that day. We did see plenty of ducks, however. Lake Anna also contains more than thirty species of fish, including largemouth bass, striped bass, walleye, crappie, and of course, catfish. One would think that with a nuclear reactor close by, these fish would look like Blinky, the three-eyed fish in The Simpsons. While Lake Anna's water quality may be poor, it is not the result of nuclear waste, but rather from years of mining gold and metals. Go figure.
Thanks to nuclear power, the water in Lake Anna is never cold, and thanks to Lake Anna, the reactor never overheats. I think that's a nice balance.