Brunswick Nuclear Station
Brunswick nuclear power plant is a large facility located in the state of North Carolina, close by the town of Southport. It has been operational since the 1970s and is owned primarily by the Progress Energy Corporation and the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency. It has two units operational; the newest, Unit 1, was opened in 1977. Unit 2, actually the first to become operational, went online in 1975. Currently, the plant employs 800 people and has the capability to generate 1,875 MW of power. The facilities underwent an upgrade from 2002 to 2005 which allowed for a further 244 MW.
When beginning operations, the biggest fear for both designers and residents alike was the plant’s proximity to local waterways, including the Cape Fear River, and the worry that material would spill over in to these areas and contaminate them, affecting not only the residents but also the wildlife population. This closeness to water, however, proved to be a major factor that increased the safety of the plant, as water could be siphoned off and used to cool the reactors. This cooling is essential and prevents the reactors from going in to meltdown, which would have disastrous implications. For those concerned about the safety of any river dwelling creatures, the plant uses a filtration system that prevents them from taking in any wildlife, instead ensuring that the creatures are left in the river.
Throughout its history, Brunswick nuclear plant has had few newsworthy safety incidents. In fact, this power plant is exceedingly proud of its history as a safe and responsible energy producer. When tritium was found in the site’s water, extensive sampling was done to insure that this radioactive isotope of helium, though posing a relatively low risk, was contained in the plant.
However, while conditions in the plant now are safe and legal, asbestos was likely used during the construction of this power plant, as well as in many other facilities up to the late 1970s. Some developers knew of this heat-resistant mineral’s dangers to public health, but chose to use it anyway because it proved to be a cheap and effective insulator. Asbestos is known to cause many serious conditions in those that have had exposure to it, including asbestosis and mesothelioma, both of which are life threatening. It was not just those that worked in the plant that were affected however, as there were often no washing facilities available. This meant staff went home and may have unintentionally exposed their families to this dangerous substance as well.