Located near the Illinois town that bears its name, the Baldwin Power plant is a coal-fired plant with a 1.75 gigawatt capacity. The facility is currently owned by Dynergy Midwest Generating, which in 2007 submitted an application to build additional units that would add another 1.5 gigawatts to its generative capacity.
History and Operations
The Baldwin facility was constructed by the Illinois Power Company in the early 1970s. The location was chosen because it is on top of a seam of coal which was its original fuel source. Today, low-sulfur coal is shipped in from Wyoming's Powder River Region. Water for the plant's boilers is drawn from the Baldwin Lake Reservoir, an artificial lake created specifically for this purpose. As there are no natural tributaries, the water must be pumped in from the Kaskaskia River that flows nearby.
Ownership of Vogtle was transferred to Texas-based conglomerate Dynergy, Inc. in 1999. This company is currently a named defendant in a number of asbestos lawsuits.
Power generation plant workers are at high risk from asbestos exposure and are substantially more likely to contract disease such as mesothelioma. In 2003, Puerto Rican researchers analyzed the chest x-rays of 1,100 workers who had worked at least fifteen years in such a facility. 13% of the images showed signs of asbestos disease.
Asbestos is more than a flame retardant; the “blue” and “brown” varieties most likely to cause asbestos cancers such as mesothelioma are also excellent electrical insulators. Asbestos-containing materials were used extensively throughout the construction of power plants prior to 1980. Some of the areas in which asbestos-containing materials were found include:
- fire doors
- electrical cloth
- pipe fittings and conduits
- gasket materials
- turbines and other machinery
Those who were employed at a power generation plant prior to 1980 should get regular checkups if possible and discuss the asbestos exposure with their primary care physician. When diagnosed and treated early, asbestos cancer patients can survive for many years. Mesothelioma chemotherapy is often available for patients and can be provided by a number of doctors including Dr. David Sugarbaker at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, MA.
In the first two-thirds of the 20th century, it was usual for factories, mills, power plants and worksites to be built with the naturally occurring, fibrous mineral known as asbestos because it provided high resistance to heat and electricity. While using asbestos was usually intended to reduce the risk of injury, it sadly often had the opposite effect. Exposure to asbestos at the workplace has resulted in serious illness for far too many employees. The reason large numbers of people have fallen ill from diseases such as pleural plaques and cancer is that when humans inhale asbestos fibers, the mineral infiltrates internal organs; once there, the tiny, jagged bits of asbestos damage tissues. The most serious of the asbestos-caused diseases is mesothelioma, a cancer that affects the mesothelium, the tissue that lines the abdominal cavity; it is almost always a death sentence for those who contract it.
Because research has demonstrated the link between being exposed to asbestos and conditions like asbestosis, 21st-century laborers are protected by government regulations that control how asbestos is used. Those who labored near asbestos-containing materials prior to the passage of such laws, on the other hand, usually spent their work days in locations where asbestos was prevalent, and they typically received little or no training about how to minimize risks when dealing with the mineral. Furthermore, if job sites didn't provide showers and decontamination methods, employees took asbestos to their homes in their clothes and hair, thereby exposing spouses and children to the risk of asbestos-related diseases.
As asbestos-related illnesses such as asbestosis and mesothelioma may not appear until 20 years or more after asbestos exposure first occurs, people who were employed at exposed sites, as well as their spouses and children, are advised to discuss their history of contact with asbestos with their medical care providers regardless of how far in the past they worked there.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.
Dynegy corporate website. “About Dynegy.”