Crystal River Energy Complex
Located in Citrus County, Florida, the Crystal River Energy Complex is one of the largest producers of electricity in the United States. Owned and operated by Progress Energy Inc, the plant consists of four fossil fuel generating stations and a nuclear power station. Total energy capacity at the facility is in excess of 3.1 gigawatts.
The four coal-burning units at Crystal River Energy Complex were developed by the Florida Power Corporation and the first two units were completed in the 1960s. Two additional coal-burning units were built in the early 1980s. Because of the nature of coal-fired generating stations, large amounts of airborne pollutants are emitted that contain carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide and soot residue.
The nuclear reactor at the Crystal River Energy Complex opened in 1977 and accounts for about one fourth of the generating capacity of the entire facility. A nuclear power generator facility is scheduled for completion in Levy County by 2016; an agreement has been reached to close the oldest fossil fuel units at Crystal River at that time.
Because of its long history of coal-fired operations, Crystal River Energy Complex was one of hundreds of power stations across the United States that likely used asbestos as an insulating material. Coal furnaces that heat water and produce steam reach incredibly high temperatures; the work areas around the furnaces required protective clothing and all nearby ceilings and floors had to be made fireproof. Asbestos was probably used at Crystal River Energy Complex both as an insulating material and as a fire retardant; the naturally occurring silicate compound was easily made into panels, tiles, and pipe coverings. The fibers could even be used in paint to make floors and walls more heat resistant.
When asbestos fibers broke free, workers at the complex often inhaled these free-floating particles and were at risk of developing several illnesses from exposure. Mesothelioma is a particularly dangerous malignancy that may not develop until many years after exposure to asbestos. The fibers are also known to cause certain abnormal cell growth in the lungs, a possible effect for those who worked at the Crystal River Energy Complex. New safety measures are now in place, but former employees remain at risk for symptoms of mesothelioma and other disorders caused by past exposure to asbestos.