Asbestos Exposure and Power Plants

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Jennifer Lucarelli Lawyer and Legal Advisor

Power plants used asbestos to protect machinery from high heat. Asbestos insulation was commonly added to pipes, boilers and turbines. As a result, power plant workers risked asbestos exposure. Asbestos-containing materials may still exist at power plants resulting in exposure.

01. Asbestos Use at Power Plants

How Was Asbestos Used at Power Plants?

Before the 1980s, asbestos-containing materials were frequently used at power plants. Power plant machinery faces high pressure and temperatures. Asbestos was added to machinery to increase durability and heat resistance.

Asbestos was also a common fireproofing material. To fireproof the equipment, asbestos insulation lined machines and pipes.

Power plant workers came into contact with asbestos insulation and other asbestos products while performing equipment maintenance and repairs. For example, workers would cut through insulation to fit it to the equipment. This often released asbestos fibers into the air.

Frequent exposure to asbestos products put power plant workers in danger. As a result of the exposure, many workers develop an asbestos-related illness later in life.

Common Asbestos Products at Power Plants

  • Lagging
  • Packing insulation
  • Pipe insulation
  • Pumps
  • Rope
  • Turbines

Most asbestos products are discontinued in the U.S. However, old asbestos-containing materials may still be present at power plants and other jobsites.

Understanding what products may contain asbestos can help workers reduce their risk of asbestos exposure.

02. Notable Power Plants

Notable Power Plants That Used Asbestos

Power plants across the U.S. often used asbestos products in their machinery. These power plants contracted asbestos companies to install insulation and other asbestos-containing materials.

The use of asbestos by power plants across the country exposed many individuals to asbestos. Some power plants continue removing asbestos from their facilities today.

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power

The Lost Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) is the largest municipal utility in the U.S. The facility serves more than four million California residents and has approximately 9,400 employees.

Quick Facts
  • Years of Operation: 1902 – Present
  • Location: Los Angeles, California

In 2008, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fined the LADWP $9,030 for demolishing asbestos-containing structures without notifying the agency. Asbestos regulations require the EPA to be notified before a demolition.

Due to the lack of EPA notification, asbestos was not completely removed from the building before demolition. The demolition may have released asbestos fibers into the air and put the public at risk.

Prior to demolition, asbestos-containing materials at LADWP facilities also put workers at risk of asbestos exposure for years. As a result, the LADWP has been named in many asbestos lawsuits by former workers and their family members.

As part of the Clean Grid L.A. initiative, the LADWP recently hired contractors to remove asbestos at four decommissioned generating units. Despite recent remediation efforts, machinery at the LADWP may still contain asbestos.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E)

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) provides natural gas and electricity to millions of California households. PG&E is headquartered in San Francisco but has several power plant locations.

Quick Facts

Years of Operation: 1905 – Present
Location: San Francisco, California

The company is known to have used asbestos insulation, turbines, boilers and other asbestos products at its power plants.

Former employees said airborne asbestos and other particles were frequently blowing in the air at PG&E plants. Workers also had to work in tight quarters, which often causes high concentrations of asbestos dust. They were also not provided with safety equipment.

Many PG&E workers developed asbestos-related diseases from working at the facilities. PG&E has faced numerous lawsuits stemming from work conditions, including asbestos lawsuits. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2001 and again in 2019.

Sometimes, as a result of bankruptcy, asbestos companies will begin a trust fund to pay victims. PG&E does not have an asbestos trust fund, but the company has set up trust funds to pay other non-asbestos claims.

Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station

Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station was constructed in 1972 by Bechtel Corporation. At the time, the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station was the only nuclear power plant operating in Massachusetts. The power plant supplied power to Massachusetts homes for four decades.

Quick Facts
  • Years of Operation: 1972 – 2019
  • Location: Plymouth, Massachusetts

When it was constructed, asbestos-containing materials were still being used at power plants. Bechtel Corporation was also a known user of asbestos products.

In 2019, the power plant was decommissioned due to financial concerns. Asbestos abatement at Pilgrim will occur as part of the decommissioning process. However, workers at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant may have experienced asbestos exposure in the past.

Other Power Plants That Caused Exposure

Other U.S. 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
03. Who Is at Risk?

Who Is at Risk of Exposure at Power Plants?

Power plant workers risked occupational asbestos exposure from contact with machinery. Power plant machinery used asbestos products to protect equipment from high heat.

According to a study of German power plant workers, metalworkers were at a particularly high risk of asbestos exposure. Metalworkers consistently work in high heat environments and may have used asbestos products for protection from hot machinery.

A variety of workers also risked asbestos exposure while performing machine maintenance and repairs. These tasks could disturb asbestos insulation. As the machinery aged, equipment wear and tear also disturbed asbestos.

If asbestos is disturbed, fibers may become airborne and can be ingested or inhaled by workers. Frequent asbestos exposure increases the risk of developing an asbestos-related disease, such as mesothelioma. However, no amount of asbestos exposure is safe.

Power plant workers wear heat-resistant clothing to protect themselves while on the jobsite. In the past, this protective clothing was often made with asbestos. Asbestos-containing protective clothing may include:

  • Aprons
  • Coats
  • Gloves
  • Masks
  • Pants

The asbestos clothing allowed employees to handle hot machinery and prevented gear from catching on fire. However, the clothing released asbestos fibers putting workers at risk of exposure.

Secondary Asbestos Exposure From Power Plants

It was also common for workers to bring home asbestos dust on their clothing. This caused family members to experience secondary asbestos exposure.

Often, power plant workers and their families were unaware asbestos exposure had occurred. Many individuals only learned of their exposure after an asbestos-related diagnosis.

Occupational asbestos exposure and secondary exposure continue to put individuals at risk of developing malignant mesothelioma, lung cancer or asbestosis, among other illnesses.

04. Asbestos Lawsuits

Asbestos Lawsuits and Compensation

Power plant workers who developed an asbestos-related disease from occupational exposure may seek financial compensation. Individuals diagnosed with an illness from secondary exposure can also seek compensation.

An individual may seek compensation through an asbestos lawsuit. Successful lawsuits result in a settlement or a verdict from the responsible companies and groups.

Many mesothelioma lawsuits have resulted in successful verdicts and settlements for power plant workers and their loved ones.

Spouse Awarded $200 Million in Mesothelioma Lawsuit

In a 2010 lawsuit, a woman was diagnosed with mesothelioma after contact with her husband’s asbestos-ridden clothing. Her husband worked at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) for 20 years cutting CertainTeed Corporation asbestos pipes. The woman was awarded:

  • $8 million in compensatory damages from the LADWP and CertainTeed Corp.
  • $200 million in punitive damages from CertainTeed Corp.

In addition to filing a lawsuit, some individuals may qualify for an asbestos trust fund claim. Companies have asbestos trust funds to compensate victims of asbestos exposure. These companies commonly set up the trusts due to involvement in many asbestos-related lawsuits.

Power plant workers with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease can connect with a lawyer to learn about all their options. For example, some law firms offer free consultations. These meetings may help individuals familiarize themselves with the legal process.

An experienced mesothelioma lawyer understands the history of asbestos use at power plants. They can help individuals determine the most beneficial way to proceed.