Elmendorf AFB Power Plant

The Elmendorf AFB Powerhouse operates in Anchorage, Alaska, as part of the Elmendorf Air Force Base. Elmendorf is a strategic location to protect Alaskans from foreign attacks; however, the on-base power plant actually provides electricity to the entire community. During the Cold War, Elmendorf was crucial to U.S. military defense strategies; the base served as the center for air defense operations in Alaska. During the spring of 1980 a military exercise deployed planes to the Far East, further showing its importance as a military base.

Beyond the Cold War, Elmendorf continued to be a vital military base. The Pacific Regional Medical Center was constructed in 1993. Today the base plays host to the Arctic Thunder Air Show every other year during the summertime. The air show is a free event open to the public. The event drew a crowd of 100,000 despite a C-17 transport plane crash a few days before the event. The event showcases flights of military planes as well as the Air Force Academy Wings of Blue parachute team.

Elmendorf was constructed in the 1950s, but it was not until decades later that the link between mesothelioma and asbestos was publically known. Asbestos was likely a part of the facilities, and over time many workers could have been potentially exposed to this material. Asbestos was used as an insulator for many of the components of the power plant, including the boilers, turbine combustion engines, and generators used asbestos as an insulator. Asbestos is highly effective in this role, and has the ability to regulate the temperature of the parts of a large machine.

Asbestos keeps components heat-free, but this benefit could come at a high price. Complications from asbestos exposure include cellular damage and lung cancer. Whole families could be put at risk if asbestos dust was carried home in the hair or on the clothes. Since the link between asbestos and mesothelioma was discovered, Elmendorf has employed safety measures to minimize the risk of exposure to asbestos, which in turn lowers the threat of mesothelioma. Engineers are also working on alternative technology to rid the plant of asbestos, such as solar powered gas turbines.