The nuclear-powered Connecticut Yankee Nuclear Power Plant was commissioned in 1968. Located near Haddam Neck, Connecticut, the plant was ceased operations in 1996. It was decommissioned by 2004; dismantling of the facility was completed by the summer of 2006. During its lifetime, it had a generative capacity of 582 megawatts, and had produced in excess of 110 billion kilowatt-hours of electrical power over its 28-year existence.
Since decommissioning and dismantling, remediation of the site has been completed, though monitoring of the groundwater will continue through 2011.
While radiation is used in the treatment of cancer, it is also known to cause cellular mutations leading to cancer as well. It is not known if asbestos and radiation work together in order to increase the chances of a person's developing cancer (as is the case for tobacco use); however, virtually all power generation facilities were full of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs).
Asbestos offers excellent resistance to both heat and electrical current. Asbestos insulation was used in fire doors, around conduits and inside the machinery itself. While the asbestos-containing materials used in the construction and machinery of power plants were unlikely to pose a major health hazard to the general public, they have been proven to be a serious health risk to power plant maintenance workers and engineers.
A Puerto Rican study published in 2007 signs of asbestos disease in over 130 out of 1100 chest x-rays that had been taken of power plant workers in that country. The findings were further validated by the removal of factors such as tobacco from the data.
Although harmless in its solid state, asbestos materials become brittle with age and begin to crumble into dust. In this condition, it is called friable; asbestos dust is released into the environment. It can be inhaled by workers and often settles in the hair and on the clothing. Family members then receive secondary exposure when such asbestos materials are carried into the home.
Those who were employed at CY as well as their family members should tell their primary care physicians of any history of asbestos exposure. Not everyone who us exposed to asbestos will develop cancer; however, early and frequent monitoring will increase the chance the chance for good mesothelioma prognosis.
Because of its insulating properties, the mineral asbestos was used frequently within almost all factories, mills, power plants and worksites across the country. Although using asbestos was intended in many cases to save lives, it sadly ended up with the opposite effect: asbestos exposure at the workplace has resulted in serious illness for thousands of laborers. The reason for this is that particles of asbestos, if inhaled or ingested, can infiltrate internal organs and cause serious health conditions including "miner's lung" and lung cancer. Furthermore, job-related exposure to asbestos is the primary cause of the deadly form of cancer known as mesothelioma, which develops as a tumor of the mesothelium, the tissue that lines the chest cavity (pleural mesothelioma) or the stomach (peritoneal mesothelioma).
Those whose job sites contain asbestos now are usually safe from contact because of the numerous rules regulating its use, presence at job sites and disposal. Those who labored near asbestos-containing materials prior to the implementation of such laws, however, commonly spent their work days in sites where asbestos microfibers were prevalent, and they as a rule received little or no information concerning safe ways to handle the substance. In addition, workers took asbestos particles home on their work clothes when showers were not offered at the job site; as a result, the potentially deadly mineral also put at risk children of those who worked around asbestos.
Asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma disease often take 20 years or more to manifest, and the signs of these illnesses are often difficult to distinguish from those of other conditions; therefore, men and women who worked at these installations at any time in their job history, as well as family members of such workers, are advised to speak with their medical care providers about their history of contact with asbestos.Sources
Bowker, Michael. Deadly Deception (New York: Touchstone, 2003)
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.
Connecticut Yankee Official Website. “About CY.” (http://www.connyankee.com/html/about_cy.html )