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Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station

The Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station is located 55 miles west of Phoenix. Since 1992, it has been the largest power generation facility in the nation, having three units with a generation capacity of almost 4,000 megawatts serving four million customers. Output from Palo Verde accounts for approximately 35% of the electrical energy generated in the state of Arizona.

Corporate ownership is divided among the following corporate entities:

  • APS
  • Salt River Project
  • El Paso Electric Company
  • Southern California Edison
  • PNM Resources
  • Southern California Public Power Authority
  • Los Angeles Department of Water & Power

Palo Verde is also the only nuclear plant that is located far from a water source. Cooling water comes from the recycling of 20 billion gallons of wastewater annually, all of which comes from the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Construction on Palo Verde began in 1976; the plant came online in 1988. The final cost was almost $6 billion. Today, Palo Verde employs between 2000 and 2300 workers full-time.

Palo Verde is unique among nuclear power plants in that each of its units are able to function independently. The facility also features many safety systems that are not present at similar power plants elsewhere in the country. At Category 4, it is one of the most extensively monitored nuclear facilities in the U.S.

Asbestos Issues

As most uses of industrial asbestos predate 1980, asbestos exposure is not a serious issue at Palo Verde. Although it is listed as an “asbestos site” on several websites, the fact is that the use of asbestos in the construction of buildings and industrial sites started to be phased out beginning around 1980.

It is true that construction on the Palo Verde Plant began a year before the conspiracy of silence on the part of the asbestos industry was fully exposed; however, given the information that was available and the fact that the Palo Verde operation itself has not been involved in any asbestos litigation, it is highly unlikely that employees at the plant suffered any major exposure to asbestos.

Up until the 1980s, it was standard practice for plants, mills, and factories to use asbestos because of its insulating properties. While using asbestos was usually intended to save lives, it unfortunately ended up with the opposite effect: asbestos exposure while at work has resulted in serious illness for thousands of laborers. The reason is that strands of asbestos, when inhaled, embed themselves into respiratory passages and cause life-threatening illnesses including pleural plaques and lung cancer. In addition, mesothelioma, the fast-growing and mostly untreatable cancer of the cells that line the chest cavity, is known to be caused by mild to moderate inhalation of asbestos particles.

Today, we are much more knowledgeable about the dangers associated with asbestos exposure, and government regulations ensure the well-being of those who work with or near friable asbestos. Even up to the late 1900s, though, laborers often were told to operate in spaces in which air filled with asbestos particles was not filtered; in most cases, the dangers posed by asbestos inhalation were unknown. Furthermore, if job sites didn't provide facilities to wash off asbestos fibers, workers carried asbestos to their homes in their clothes and hair, which exposed others in their household to this deadly toxin.

Diseases such as mesothelioma often take decades to appear, and symptoms are often mistaken for those of other conditions, so men and women who were employed at such facilities at any time in the past, as well as those who lived with them, are advised to speak with their doctors about their history of asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma prognosis can be enouraging when mesothelioma disease is in its early stages but invariably fatal in their latter ones.

Sources

Sources

APS. “Palo Verde.”
http://www.aps.com/general_info/AboutAPS_18.html

Gonyeau, Joseph. “Palo Verde – Arizona.” The Nuclear Tourist, 15 March 2001.

U.S. Energy Information Administration. “Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, Arizona.”
http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/nuclear/page/at_a_glance/reactors/palo_verde.html

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