Big Rock Point Nuclear Power Plant
Charlevoix, Michigan, was the home of the Big Rock Point nuclear power plant, which was open from the early 1960s until 1997. Charlevoix, located in the far northern tip of Michigan, is a small city now best known for its proximity to a U.S. Coast Guard facility and its annual Apple festival.
The Big Rock Point nuclear power plant was owned by Consumers Energy, with a boiling water reactor from General Electric. The main contractor in the establishment of the plant was Bechtel Corporation. Construction began on July 20, 1960, and would continue for nearly 30 months, costing $27.7 million before the power plant’s first electricity was created in 1962. Before being decommissioned, the power plant was able to produce 67 megawatts of energy. Charlevoix was home of the fifth nuclear power plant in the U.S. and was the site of Michigan’s first. Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, a General Electric spokesman at the time, participated in a promotional video for the plant.
Big Rock Point’s owners, Consumers Energy, made the announcement that they would not be applying to renew the nuclear power plant’s license to operate when it expired in 2000. Even so, the economy at the time ultimately determined that Big Rock Point would shut down some three years before this expiration date, in 1997. The nuclear reactor was officially shut down for the final time on August 29, 1997, which was exactly 35 years since the operating license was first procured. Decontamination procedures lasted another two years, and were completed in 1999. Big Rock Point nuclear power plant has since been named by the American Nuclear Society as a Nuclear Historic Landmark. The entirety of the power plant has been demolished, including its containment structure.
During the history of the power plant, asbestos was utilized in its infrastructure. This may have exposed employees of the plant to detrimental health effects due to the nature of asbestos, which, when airborne, can lodge in the lungs and other body tissues. It is now widely known that inhalation of asbestos can cause severe medical conditions such as lung cancer or mesothelioma.
Tompkins, Betsy. (November 2006). “Big Rock Point: From Groundbreaking to Greenfield.” Retrieved March 22, 2011 from American Nuclear Society.