The Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant near Seabrook, New Hampshire is a single-unit facility completed in 1986 after ten years of construction. A second unit had been planned; however, due to cost overruns and difficulties in financing, this unit was eventually cancelled. Unit 1 finally went online in 1990. This unit, a pressurized water reactor designed by Westinghouse, has a generative capacity of over 1.2 gigawatts. Water for cooling is drawn from the Atlantic.
Seabrook is owned primarily by FPL Energy; a smaller ownership interest is maintained by a number of municipal utilities in Massachusetts.
Although nuclear plants have their own specific hazards, they do not generate the same kinds of toxic wastes that are associated with coal and oil-fired plants. One hazardous substance that all older power plants contain however is asbestos.
Because Seabrook was constructed primarily during the 1980s, asbestos is not a major issue as it would have been in an older facility. Before the 1980s, asbestos insulation was sprayed onto machinery, pipes and electrical conduits in most industries however, and even today there many building materials that still contain asbestos. Asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) were also present in the gasket materials used for pipe fittings, valves and pumps. Paints and flooring as well as wall board (an asbestos-impregnated form of concrete known as transite) and building insulation were all made with large amounts of ACMs.
As this insulation ages, it begins to crumble, or become friable. Since the dangers of asbestos has been known (the information finally came out in 1977 after a forty-year corporate cover-up), asbestos in power plants has either been removed or sealed up with resin compounds. In addition, both the EPA and OHSA have issued strong worker-protection rules; approved respirators and even HAZMAT must be available to workers whose duties requires them to carry out tasks in known or suspected asbestos hazard areas.
Virtually everyone today has been exposed to some amount of asbestos; it normally requires high concentrations over a lengthy period of time in order for asbestos disease to develop. Other factors that determine asbestos disease risk include tobacco use and family history of cancer.
A solid diagnosis is necessary in order to recover damages successfully, especially if it is mesothelioma. According to all current research, asbestos exposure is the only documented cause of mesothelioma; the defense will argue for a misdiagnosis.
It is also important to gather as much information about the exposure as you can. Legally, the plaintiff's counsel must demonstrate direct cause due to exposure to a specific product.
This facility was one of countless factories, mills, power plants and worksites that, throughout most of the 20th century, used the mineral asbestos because of its ability to withstand flame. While using asbestos was generally considered a way to protect human life, it unfortunately ended up with the opposite effect: exposure to asbestos at jobsites has resulted in illness and death for far too many employees. The reason so many employees have fallen ill from diseases including pleural plaques and cancer of the lungs is that when humans inhale strands of asbestos, the mineral infiltrates internal organs; once there, the sharp, microscopic spikes damage tissues. In addition, workplace exposure to asbestos can lead to the deadly form of cancer known as pleural mesothelioma, which affects the mesothelium, the tissue that lines the chest cavity (pleural mesothelioma) or the stomach (peritoneal mesothelioma).
Because research has uncovered the relationship between asbestos exposure and illnesses such as mesothelioma, today's laborers are protected by state and federal guidelines that prescribe how asbestos is handled. In earlier days, however, laborers often were forced to operate in areas in which air filled with asbestos particles was unfiltered; in many cases, the dangers posed by asbestos inhalation were little understood. In addition, employees brought asbestos to their homes on their clothes or in their hair when decontamination procedures weren't provided at the workplace; as a result, this potentially deadly mineral also endangered anyone who shared a house with those who worked with asbestos.
Because health conditions like asbestosis and mesothelioma may not manifest until a very long time after asbestos exposure first occurs, those who had jobs at contaminated sites, as well as their family members, should discuss their history of contact with asbestos with their medical care providers no matter how long ago they worked there. Also, those exposed negligently should contact a mesothelioma attorney.Sources
Bowker, Michael. Fatal Deception: The Terrifying True Story of How Asbestos is Killing America. 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.
Florida Power & Light. “About Seabrook Station.”