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Crystal River

The Crystal River Nuclear Power Plant is located in Crystal River, Florida. It is part of a more extensive facility known as the Crystal River Energy Complex, which also includes four fossil fuel power plants. The reactor, built by Babcock and Wilcox, has a generative capacity of 914 megawatts.

The facility was originally the property of the Florida Progress Corporation, which sold it to Carolina Power & Light (CPL) in 2000. Today, Progress Energy owns a 92% ownership interest in Crystal River, while the remainder is shared by nine municipal utilities.

As was the case for virtually every industry constructed and operating before 1980, the use of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) was common throughout the construction of power generation facilities. They were employed in numerous locations that included the buildings themselves as well as the machinery. Asbestos is resistant not only to heat and flame, but caustic chemicals and electrical current as well. Over the years, the use of ACMs has saved lives and prevented billions of dollars in property loss.

Asbestos disease is relatively rare, but also painful and invariably fatal. The industrial health hazards were well known to ACM manufacturers by the 1930s, but the knowledge was kept a secret for over forty years before a court case in 1977 exposed the corporate conspiracy.

Today, strong regulations issued by the EPA and OSHA require companies operating any kind of industry to provide a safe work environment where asbestos is concerned. Violations can result in large monetary fines and other penalties; individuals responsible may also face prison time.

Asbestos diseases typically have very long latency periods. Symptoms may not appear for as much as sixty years after a person is first exposed to asbestos. Former employees of the McClellan facility as well as their families should discuss the possibility of asbestos exposure with their primary care doctors; early diagnosis is the key to an encouraging mesothelioma prognosis.

In the first two-thirds of the 20th century, it was extremely common for plants, mills, and factories to be constructed with the mineral asbestos because it excelled at blocking fire. It is ironic that protecting lives was usually one of the primary reasons for using asbestos in places for the outcome was in fact to put people at risk of serious illness or death due to inhalation of or other contact with asbestos. The disorders caused by asbestos include "miner's lung" and cancer; the biggest risk of developing these conditions occurs when products containing asbestos become fragile, releasing particles into the air where they are available to inhale. Furthermore, job-related asbestos exposure can lead to the deadly form of cancer known as mesothelioma, which affects the cells that line the pleural cavity (pleural mesothelioma) or the stomach (peritoneal mesothelioma).

Because science has shown the relationship between being exposed to asbestos and diseases like pleural plaques, modern-day employees are protected by health and safety statutes that control how asbestos is used. However, in the past, workers without respiratory equipment commonly toiled in places where asbestos dust filled the air. Spouses were also exposed to asbestos when employers did not offer workplace-only uniforms, because workers inadvertently transported asbestos particles home in their work garments.

Asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma disease can take decades to develop, and symptoms are often difficult to distinguish from those of other conditions; therefore, people who worked at such facilities during their careers, as well as their family members, are encouraged to talk with their medical care providers about their history of exposure to asbestos.

Sources

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.

Energy Information Administration. “Crystal River Nuclear Power Plant, Florida.”
http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/nuclear/page/at_a_glance/reactors/crystal.html

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