Arkansas Nuclear One (ANO) is the state’s only nuclear facility. A two-unit pressurized water reactor nuclear power plant, it is located on the shores of Lake Dardanelle near Russellville. The facility is owned and operated by Entergy.
Its two units have a total generative capacity of over 1.7 gigawatts. The first unit’s reactor was manufactured by Babcock & Wilcox and the turbine was built by General Electric. The unit came online in May 1974, and is licensed to operated through 2034. The reactor for the second unit was produced by Combustion Engineering, Inc., and was completed and in operation by September 1978. The turbine itself was built by Westinghouse. Unit 2 is among one of the most productive and efficient in the world in terms of capacity.
Regardless of the power source, asbestos has been a problem associated with all types of electrical generation plants – particularly those constructed prior to 1980.
Prior to that time, asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) were used extensively throughout the construction of power generation plants as well as other industries. The reasons have to do with the hazards typically encountered in such facilities: flame, heat and electricity, and caustic substances. “Blue” crocidolite asbestos is a particularly effective electrical insulator; it is also one of the deadliest varieties of asbestos, known to cause mesothelioma.
ACMs were employed in virtually everything from flame-retardant paint to the very machinery used to generate power. It was particularly hazardous in this context, as the moving parts could eject millions of fibers into the building environment. This was dangerous not only for workers who inhaled such fibers, but their family members as well when fibers that had settled in workers' hair and clothing were brought into the home resulted in secondary exposure.
A research study in Puerto Rico involved the examination of chest x-rays from 1100 power plant workers. Signs of asbestos disease was noted in over 130 of the images. Power plants are regarded by industrial medicine experts as some of the most hazardous industrial worksites for asbestos exposure.
In the first two-thirds of the 20th century, it was typical for many industrial facilities to utilize the mineral asbestos because of its insulating properties. While asbestos' strength as an insulator certainly saved lives, the unforeseen results of using it were tragic, and numerous men and women contracted serious illness because of contact with asbestos. The reason for this is that asbestos strands, when inhaled, damage internal organs and cause serious health conditions including "miner's lung" and cancer of the lungs. In addition, mesothelioma prognosis is nearly always fatal. The cancer affects the lining surrounding the lungs and is linked with even low levels of exposure to asbestos.
Those who work with asbestos now are usually safe from contact because of the many laws regulating its utilization, presence at job sites and scrapping. Even as late as the 1970s, however, workers without protective equipment often toiled in areas thick with asbestos dust. Family members were also subjected to asbestos exposure if workplaces failed to offer ways for employees to wash off asbestos fibers, because workers inadvertently transported asbestos to their homes in their clothes and hair.
Those who worked at this site at any time in their job history, as well as those who lived with them, should find out about these health conditions and tell their family doctors about their history of exposure to asbestos, because the signs of mesothelioma disease and other asbestos-related illnesses can be difficult to distinguish from those of other, less serious conditions.Sources
Cabrera-Santiago, Manuel et al. “Prevalence of Asbestos-Related Disease Among Electrical Power Generation Workers in Puerto Rico.” Presentation at American Public Health Association Annual Meeting, 2007.
Entergy Website. “Arkansas Nuclear One.”
N/A. “Arkansas Nuclear One Power Plant, Arkansas.” Energy Information Administration, U.S. Department of Energy.
Radcliffe, Maranda and William Leeper. “Arkansas Nuclear One.” The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. Central Arkansas Library System (11 August 2006).