The Duane Arnold Energy Center (DAEC) is Iowa’s sole nuclear plant, is located on the west bank of the Cedar River near Cedar Rapids. It is owned jointly by FPL Energy Inc. and two electrical co-ops, Central Iowa Power and Corn Belt. Construction on the plant began in June 1970 and the facility went online on 1 February 1975.
The operation license was transferred from FPL to Nuclear Management LLC in May 2000, but was returned to FPL in January 2006. Although approved for 1.9 gigawatt capacity, DAEC is currently limited to 1.88 gigawatts pending the completion of necessary upgrades.
DAEC is a “zero discharge” plant; all spent fuel and materials are stored on-site. An application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to extend the current operation license to 2034 is pending.
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 have been employed at DAEC 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 that if cancer does develop, it can be caught in its early stages and successfully treated.
Because of its resistance to heat, flame and electrical current, the naturally occurring fibrous mineral known as asbestos was often used in numerous work sites around the country. It is ironic that reducing the risk of injury was almost always one of the main reasons behind utilizing asbestos in places for the outcome was actually to place workers at risk of serious illness or death due to asbestos exposure. The reason for this is that particles of asbestos, when inhaled or ingested, embed themselves into the lungs and cause life-threatening health conditions including "miner's lung" and lung cancer. Also, mesothelioma, a rare but deadly cancer affecting the lining surrounding the lungs, has been proven to be caused by mild to moderate exposure to asbestos.
Those who work around asbestos now are usually protected from exposure due to the numerous rules regulating its utilization, inclusion in products and scrapping. In earlier days, though, laborers all too often were forced to operate in spaces in which air filled with asbestos particles was not filtered; in many cases, the risks of asbestos exposure were unknown. Moreover, employees brought asbestos strands to their homes on their work clothes when showers were not provided at the company; the consequence of this was that this carcinogen also endangered anyone who shared a house with those who worked with asbestos.
Since conditions like mesothelioma often don't manifest until 20 years or more after asbestos exposure first occurs, those who had jobs at exposed sites, as well as their family members, should discuss their history of asbestos exposure with their physicians no matter how long ago they worked there. If caught early the cancer can be treated with mesothelioma chemotherapy by doctors like Dr. David Sugarbaker in Boston, MA. at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.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.
"Duane Arnold Nuclear Plant, Iowa". Energy Information Administration, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). August 27, 2008.