Brunner Island Steam Electric

The Brunner Island Steam Electric Station is a power plant located in York County, Pennsylvania. It is a coal-fired generating station that has a maximum output capacity of over 1,480 megawatts and uses primarily bituminous coal as the fuel source. The plant is owned and operated by Pennsylvania Power and Light and currently employs about 240 workers.

The three operating units at the Brunner Island facility began producing electricity in 1961, 1965 and 1969, respectively. The coal is used to heat water to boiling in the large steam chambers and the resulting vapor is used to drive the turbines in the electromagnetic generating chambers. The plant’s location on a small island in the Susquehanna River makes for ideal use of the flowing water as a cooling source. When the station was originally opened there were no scrubbers or other means to filter the particulates from the flue gases, nor were there any cooling towers; all waste heat was discharged into the river.

A number of major environmentally-friendly upgrades and renovations have taken place at the Brunner Island Station since the turn of the 21st century. In 2005 a modern set of sulfur scrubbers were being installed at each of the generating units and this project was completed by 2009. These massive scrubbers were designed especially for this particular power station and have the capability of removing over 100,000 tons of sulfur annually. A new set of cooling towers was completed in 2010 and the power plant now cools almost all of its water without introducing thermal pollution into the Susquehanna River.

Prior to the 1970s the dangers of asbestos were not publically known, as many workers at power stations, shipyards, metal forging sites and smelting operations complained of sicknesses that they may not have realized were connected to their occupations. Eventually asbestos was recognized as the cause of a number of debilitating diseases because of the very nature of asbestos fibers. Asbestos is a silicate compound that is made of tiny fibers; long-term contact between these fibers and organic tissue can result in a carcinogenic effect.

Asbestos was used for over a century in power plants and other factories where high heat was expected. The material is an effective flame retardant and, when molded with other chemicals, is used for protective tiles and wall panels. As buildings age they often release asbestos into the air through the decay of wood, cloth, sheetrock and whatever else asbestos may be concealed behind. Mesothelioma is one example of disease caused by exposure to asbestos, and its symptoms often do not become evident until decades after inhalation. The Brunner Island Steam Electric Station may have used asbestos extensively.


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