Indian Point Powerhouse
Asbestos and the first nuclear powerhouse.
The Indian Point Nuclear Powerhouse located in the state of New York belonged to Consolidated Edison. Since it first became operational in the early 1970s, it had several problemas, including having to shut down one of its 3 plants after a leak from its water reactor in 1974. When it opened, it became the first commercial nuclear plant owned by private capitals in the US.
In 2001, ConEd sold the still functional Plant 2 and the closed Plant 1 to the Entergy Corporation for $602 million, while the NY Power Authority took control of Plant 3 in 1975.
Powerhouse Workers at Risk for Asbestos Exposure
The production of nuclear power implies elevated temperatures and tremendous heat, which require insulation. At the time the plant was built, the preferred insulation material was asbestos, due to its low cost and high resistance to heat, chemical reactions, and fire. The plant was thus packed with asbestos-insulated pipes, turbines, pumps, and any other item that required insulation.
The Indian Point Powerhouse produced an enormous amount of heat and needed cheap and efficient insulation. The solution at the time was asbestos, a natural mineral that was inexpensive and ‘fire-proof’. Inside the powerhouse, there were miles of steam piping, as well as boilers, turbine-generators, pumps and other items that were assembled and insulated with asbestos. Construction and maintenance caused large amounts of asbestos dust to be thrown into the air. Workers were unaware of the dangers associated with breathing in the dust and just continued to work in the hazardous environment.
Building, maintenance and repair work liberated huge amounts of asbestos particles into the plant´s environment, which would then be inhaled by workers, and even mere passers-by. Since employees ignored the hazards of asbestos-inhalation, they unkowingly continued to work in their highly poisonous surroundings.
The asbestos fibers were all around, putting everyone in the vicinity at risk. The dangerous particles would stick to workers clothes, making them carry them to their home, jeopardizing the health of their family members.
By the time the scientific community revealed the dangers of asbestos contamination for human helath, thousands of powerhouse workers had already been extensively exposed to it. When the use of asbestos was regulated by health authorities, it was already too late for them.
Occupational risks at Indian Point:
Mesothelioma and other diseases caused by asbestos
Following their employment at Indian Point, many workers who were exposed to asbestos developed several respiratory diseases, notably, a malignant form of cancer called mesothelioma, among others.
Brought on by asbestos exposure in almost 100% of the cases, MESOTHELIOMA is a type of cancer that forms in the lining of the lungs, in the majority of cases; but it can also develop in the heart and in the abdominal region.
ASBESTOSIS is a condition exclusive to asbestos exposure; it cannot be developed any other way. The way it works is with the formation of scar tissue building in the lungs, following asbestos inhalation. This is later the cause of diminished breathing capacity and circulatory problems.
Although there are other ways of developing LUNG CANCER, asbestos fibers can also cause it, especially in the case of smokers. It has been shown that a combination of asbestos exposure and smoking can raise the chances of contracting lung cancer by as much as 90%. Workers who continued to smoke due to their ignorance of this fact have been terribly affected by the industry´s failure to reveal the risks involved in asbestos exposure.
As these asbestos diseases have an incubation period of 10-50 years, many people who have been affected spend decades without knowing about it. Because of this lag between contamination and symptom appearance, the number of former workers affected by asbestos exposure is still uncertain. However, statistics have established that 10,000 people die every year in the US due to an asbestos-related condition.
If you have ever been employed at the Indian Point powerhouse or any other similar power plan, you may be at risk. You should consult your physician and rule out this possibility, and, in case you have been affected, you are entitled to moral and financial reparation.
Asbestos was one of the greater occupational evils of the XXth century. While authorities and industry leaders were informed about the possibility of these evils, their response came, unfortunately too late.