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Asbestos materials have been used throughout power plants that were built prior to 1980. Asbestos products offered durability, heat resistance and fireproofing, which was ideal for protecting workers and machinery at high temperatures.

Anyone who worked in a power plant between 1950 and 1980 likely faced asbestos exposure, and workers today are still at risk if they deal with old equipment and materials. As a result, thousands of power plant workers are susceptible to developing asbestos-related diseases, like mesothelioma. In 2016 alone, there were 54,700 workers employed as power plant operators, distributors and dispatchers.

Asbestos Use at Power Plants

Power plants are comprised of heavy machinery that face high temperatures, such as boilers, furnaces, steam pipes, turbines and steam generators. There are three primary types of power plants, all prominent prior to the 1980s. The first is hydroelectric, using water for power. The second is steam-powered, using fossil fuels like oil or coal to create heat for steam power. The third is nuclear power designed to create electricity. Every type of power plant in the industry used asbestos.

Equipment used for power plant processes faced high pressure and high temperatures, which is why asbestos was frequently used for durability, heat resistance and fireproofing. Asbestos insulation lined most of the machines and pipes, with workers frequently cutting through the insulation to fit it to the equipment. Asbestos in pipe insulation and pipe coverings has been especially prominent through power plants.

Power plant workers also frequently had asbestos throughout their clothing. Protective gear like gloves, coats, pants, masks and aprons were often crafted with asbestos. This allowed employees to handle hot machinery and equipment, while also preventing the gear from catching on fire.

United States power plant companies with known occupational exposure include those listed below, by state.

  • Barry Steam Plant
  • Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant
  • Childersburg Power Plant
  • Colbert Steam Plant
  • Farley Nuclear Power Plant
  • Gaston Power Plant
  • Gorgas Power Plant
  • Greene County Steam Plant
  • Miller Steam Plant
  • Widows Creek Power Plant
  • Aurora Power
  • Beluga Power Station
  • Bernice Lake Powerhouse
  • Chugach Power Plant
  • Elmondorf Air Force Base – Powerhouse
  • Golden Valley Electric Power Plant
  • Matanuska Electric Association
  • University of Alaska – Power Plant
  • Childs-Irving Power Plant
  • Cholla Power Plant
  • Ocotilla Power Plant
  • Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Plant
  • Saguaro Power Plant
  • West Phoenix Power Plant
  • Yucca Power Plant
  • Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp
  • Arkansas Nuclear One Generating Station
  • Carl E. Bailey Generating Station
  • Flint Creek Power Plant
  • Independence Steam Station
  • John L. McClellan Generating Station
  • Pacific Gas & Electric Company
  • Pacific Gas & Electric Power Plant
  • San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station
  • Southern California Edison
  • Arapahoe Power Plant
  • Cameo Power Plant
  • Cherokee Power Station
  • Comanche Powerhouse
  • Craig Power Station
  • Fort St. Vrain Generating Station
  • Hayden Power Plant
  • Martin Drake Power Plant
  • Nucla Power Station
  • Pawnee Power Plant
  • Rawhide Energy Station
  • Ray D. Nixon Power Plant
  • Valmont Powerhouse
  • Zuni Power Plant
  • Connecticut Yankee Atomic Power
  • Millstone Nuclear Power Plant
  • Anclote Power Plant
  • Bartow Power Plant
  • Big Bend Powerhouse
  • Cape C. Fort Pierce Municipal Power Plant
  • Cape Canaveral Power Plant
  • Crist Power Plant
  • Crystal River Nuclear Plant
  • Fort Myers Power Plant
  • Gannon/Culbreath Power Plant
  • Hookers Power Plant
  • Sholz Power Plant
  • Smith Power Plant
  • St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant
  • Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant
  • Bowen Power Plant
  • Kraft Power Plant
  • Scherer Power Plant
  • Vogtle Power Plant
  • Baldwin Power Plant
  • Braidwood Nuclear Power Plant
  • Clinton Power Station
  • Dresden Nuclear Power Plant
  • LaSalle Generating Station
  • Quad Cities
  • Zion Nuclear Power Station
  • Cayuga Power Plant
  • F.B. Culley Generating Station
  • R. Gallagher Generating Station
  • Tanner’s Creek
  • Wabash River Power Plant
  • Duane Arnold Nuclear Powerhouse
  • Iowa Power and Light
  • Sioux City Coal and Gas
  • Tipton Power Plant
  • Wolf Creek Generating Station
  • Paradise Steam Plant
  • Cajun Electric
  • Little Gypsy Power Plant
  • R.S. Nelson Station Powerhouse
  • River Bend Power Plant
  • Waterford Nuclear Power Plant
  • Maine Yankee Nuclear Power Plant
  • Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant
  • Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant
  • Sithe Mystic Station Power Plant
  • Enrico Fermi Powerhouse
  • Palisades Nuclear Power Plant
  • Big Stone Lake Plant
  • Hoot Lake Power Plant
  • Monticello Nuclear Power Plant
  • Prairie Island
  • Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Plant
  • Callaway Nuclear Power Plant
  • Colstrip Power Plant
  • J.E. Corrette Steam Plant
  • Lewis & Clark Power Plant
  • Missoula Electric Cooperative
  • Montana Power Company
  • Canaday Station
  • Cooper Nuclear Power Plant
  • Cuming County Public Power
  • Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant
  • Gerald Gentleman Station
  • Hallam Nuclear Power Facility
  • Omaha Public Power
  • Sheldon Station
  • Beowawe Power Plant
  • Brady Power Plant
  • Clark Station
  • Desert Peak Power Plant
  • Dixie Valley Power Plant
  • Empire Farms Power Plant
  • Fort Churchill Generating Station
  • Pinon Pine Power Plant
  • Reid Gardner Station
  • Soda Lake I & II
  • Steamboat Power Plants
  • Tracy Generating Station
  • Valmy Generating Station
  • Wabuska
New Hampshire
  • Dover Gas Plant
  • Exeter Gas Plant
  • Merrimack Station Powerhouse
  • Newington Power Plant
  • Schiller Station Powerhouse
  • Seabrook Nuclear Power Station
New Jersey
  • Hope Creek Nuclear Power Plant
  • Oyster Creek
  • Salem Nuclear Power Plant
New Mexico
  • Four Corners Powerhouse
  • United Nuclear Corporation
New York
  • Arthur Kill Powerhouse
  • Astoria Powerhouse
  • Caithness Power Plant
  • Charles Poletti Power Project
  • Fitzpatrick Nuclear Power Plant
  • Flynn Power Plant
  • Ginna Nuclear Plant
  • Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant
  • Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant 2
  • Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station
North Carolina
  • Brunswick Nuclear Power Plant
  • McGuire Nuclear Power Plant
  • Shearon Harris Generating Station
North Dakota
  • Coyote Power Station
  • Beckjord Power Plant
  • Cardinal Power Plant
  • Conesville Power Plant
  • Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant
  • Muskingum Power Station
  • Perry Nuclear Power Plant
  • Sammis Power Station
  • Ponca City Municipal Electric System
  • Peach Bottom Nuclear Power Plant
  • Susquehanna Power Station
  • Three Mile Island
South Carolina
  • Catawba Nuclear Plant
  • Alliant Energy

Asbestos Emissions from Power Plants

In addition to the materials and gear used within power plants, studies have shown that they also released asbestos into the air, putting those living and working nearby at risk. Most studies regarding these toxic emissions weren’t released until the 1980s and 1990s, leaving many unknowingly exposed. Though there are now laws in place to help regulate toxic air emissions from power plants, the public was likely exposed for decades and may still face exposure from plants not properly abiding by regulations.

Power Plant Workers and Mesothelioma Risk

Once the dangers of asbestos became well-known, organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) began to put laws and regulations in place to protect workers from the carcinogen. However, exposure was extensive prior to these regulations, and asbestos-containing materials are still prevalent today.

Machine repairs, wear and tear to equipment, use of protective clothing and interaction with power plant building materials were all ways that workers have been exposed to asbestos. As the materials become disturbed, fibers become airborne or friable.

When asbestos is released into the air, the microscopic fibers could then be easily ingested or inhaled by the power plant workers. Case studies have also shown that it’s common for them to bring home asbestos dust on their clothing, then exposing family members at home through secondary exposure. Once asbestos exposure occurs, individuals are then susceptible to developing asbestos illnesses like malignant mesothelioma, lung cancer or asbestosis.

Mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases have a long latency period, meaning it can take decades for symptoms to emerge. Many workers are even unaware that they were exposed to asbestos in the first place, only learning of their exposure after receiving a diagnosis. As a result, cases continue to emerge today of power plant workers and their families being diagnosed with mesothelioma who were initially exposed years ago.

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