Beaver Valley Nuclear Plant
Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Plant is located on a 500-acre lot in Shippingport in western Pennsylvania. It is owned by the Pennsylvania Power Company and Ohio Edison Company, and operated by the FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Co. The second unit at Beaver Valley is owned by several different companies. Beaver Valley began operating pressurized water reactors in 1976. The second unit opened in 1987. The facility is cooled with water from the Ohio River circulating in two natural draft cooling towers.
Unit 1 is capable of producing up to 892 MW of power, and Unit 2 can produce up to 846 MW, all of which is dispersed to customers in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. In 2007, Beaver Valley petitioned to have its licenses renewed. It was granted renewal pending a review. In March of 2011, Unit 2 shut down for regular maintenance and refueling after 465 consecutive days of safe operation.
Over the years, Beaver Valley has been cited eleven different times by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The citations followed several violations and issues at the plant. In addition, Beaver Valley has come under scrutiny in relation to asbestos. Asbestos was commonly used in nuclear power plants because it is highly resistant to heat transfers. Beaver Valley was likely no exception. However, research has indicated that asbestos is hazardous to human life. It can lead to breathing problems, mesothelioma, and lung cancer.
Asbestos has been shown to cause major health problems for power plant employees who have worked there for many years. Diseases that result from asbestos exposure take a long time to materialize. As such, many people don’t know they were affected until decades later and diagnosis may be significantly delayed. Because of that, the prognosis for diseases like mesothelioma is very grim. Not only are employees at risk, but their families may be as well. Asbestos particles can linger on the body and clothing. That means that if a power plant worker didn’t shower before leaving work, they could have brought those particles home with them.
Now, many power plants have taken steps to protect workers from the harm of asbestos, but for those exposed in past decades, it is too late. There is no known cure for mesothelioma, and life expectancy is tragically short.