Humboldt Bay Power Plant

Owned by Pacific Gas & Electric, the Humboldt Bay Power Plant is located near Eureka, California, and consists of a nuclear reacting station that is no longer in operation, a fossil fuel generating station and the new Humboldt Bay Generating Station. The construction of the new power facility and the dismantling and removal of the older facilities is scheduled for completion by 2015.

The fossil fuel facility began operations in 1956 and consisted of two generating units. The construction of the nuclear reactor power plant was completed in 1963, and this part of the facility, known as Unit 3, was in operation for thirteen years. Shut down in 1976 for seismic upgrades and replenishment of fuel rods, the unit never restarted, primarily because of concerns after the Three Mile Island incident in Pennsylvania. Instead Pacific Gas & Electric decided that reopening of Unit 3 was not economically feasible given the new upgrade and maintenance guidelines now required at nuclear power stations. Instead the company applied for and received permission to use the reactor site as a storage facility for spent fuel. The Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation Unit was not completed until 1999.

Groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Humboldt Bay Generating Station took place in 2008. The design for this new station incorporates new technology in the area of natural gas combustion engines. A total of 10 combustion units will make up the new facility and estimates show an approximate 33 percent fuel savings over the older fossil-burning Units 1 and 2, which are scheduled for dismantlement in the next few years. The new generating station will provide about 163 megawatts of electricity at maximum performance.

The original fossil fuel generating station at Humboldt Bay Power Plant may have used asbestos-laden materials in many parts of the facility. Asbestos silicate is a lightweight, inexpensive compound that is excellent as an insulator against heat and the spread of flames. Workers often wore protective clothing made with asbestos fibers and spent much of their time in areas at the power plant that were covered with asbestos tiles and wall panels. While meeting safety regulations with regards to fire prevention and control, asbestos fibers were often inhaled by employees. By the 1980s health warnings about the dangers of asbestos became widely known; asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma are caused by former exposure and inhalation of asbestos.