The Farley Nuclear Power Plant is located near Dothan, Alabama. The facility's two pressurized water reactors have a total capacity of about 1800 megawatts. Unit One began operation in December of 1977; Unit Two came online three-and-a-half years later. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has licensed Unit One until 2037 and Unit Two until 2041.
This facility has been remarkably trouble-free; aside from some brief downtime periods, the Farley Plant has been able to provide local residents with over 200 billion kilowatts of electricity over the past three decades. By the year 2000, this represented about 20% of the state's electrical output.
In addition, the operation enjoys the distinction of having a work force who as of March 2000 had put in 7 million man-hours without work-related illness or injury. Radiation exposure levels at Farley are also the lowest among nuclear plants.
This safety is likely to have come at a cost, however. The containment building for the facility was constructed using reinforced concrete and carbon steel. Prior to the 1980s, such concrete was often reinforced with asbestos.
Because flame, excessive heat and electricity are all hazards at power generation plants, all such facilities made extensive use of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in their construction as well as the turbines themselves. Electrical cloth, fire doors, pipe and conduit lagging and work surfaces all contained substantial amounts of asbestos. When this became friable (a crumbling state in which fibers are released into the environment), asbestos dust could become lodged in workers' hair and clothing, subjecting unsuspecting family members to secondary exposure. Those who have been exposed to asbestos should seek medical attention at any of the mesothelioma clinics in their area.
Medical researchers in Puerto Rico examined chest x-rays from 1100 power plant workers in a 2003 study. Indications of asbestos disease were seen in 13% of the subjects. Power plants such as Farley are considered by experts to be among the most hazardous industrial jobsites when it comes to asbestos.
This location was one of countless factories, mills, power plants and worksites that, during the first seven decades of the 1900s, used asbestos for its ability to withstand heat. While using asbestos was usually intended to reduce the risk of injury, it sadly ended up with the opposite effect: asbestos exposure on the job has resulted in illness and death for untold numbers laborers. The reason large numbers of people have become ill from diseases including pleural plaques and cancer is that when humans inhale asbestos strands, the mineral remains in respiratory passages; once there, the sharp, microscopic spikes damage organs. The most deadly of the asbestos-linked illnesses is mesothelioma, a cancer that involves the mesothelium, the tissue that lines the chest cavity; it is a disease that usually kills within two years of diagnosis.
Because research has uncovered the relationship between inhaling asbestos and illnesses like lung cancer, 21st-century laborers are protected by state and federal guidelines that prescribe how asbestos is handled. Even up to the last part of the 20th century, though, workers often were expected to toil in spaces in which asbestos dust was not filtered; in many cases, safety procedures were little understood. In addition, workers carried dust containing asbestos to their homes in their work garments when showers weren't offered at the workplace; the consequence of this was that the potentially deadly mineral also put at risk families of those who worked around asbestos.
People who were employed here at any time in the past, as well as their spouses and children, are advised to learn more about these health conditions and inform their healthcare professionals about their history of exposure to asbestos, because the signs of diseases such as mesothelioma can be difficult to distinguish from those of other, less serious conditions. Workers who have been negligently exposed should seek legal counsel from a mesothelioma lawyer.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.
Energy Information Administration. (Joseph M). Farley Nuclear Power Plant, Alabama.
Southern Company. “Plant Farley.”