Jim Bridger Power Station
The Jim Bridger Power Plant is located on 1,000 acres of land approximately 30 miles outside of Rock Springs, Wyoming. The plant is named after John Bridger, a prominent man of nature in the 19th century, notable as a guide, scout and trapper. The plant was first commissioned in 1974, and it has seen extensive expansion since then. The plant started with just one unit, but it has since added three others. Currently, the Jim Bridger plant is capable of generating 2,120 megawatts. The plant is operated and co-owned by PacifiCorp. Idaho Power serves as co-owner of the plant.
Each of the plant’s four units has electrostatic precipitators that help to control emissions. The units also have wet scrubbers that aid in controlling the emission of sulfur-dioxide. Since 2007, all of these scrubbers have seen upgrades. These upgrades enable them to scrub almost 90% of all emissions of sulfur dioxide.
The Jim Bridger plant burns millions of tons of coal each year. The Jim Bridger mine is responsible for supplying about two-thirds of the coal for the plant. The remaining one-third is supplied by Wyoming mines, which transport it by rail. A large boiler burns the coal, which makes steam at temperatures approaching 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit at a pressure of 2,400 pounds per each square inch. The steam is also recycled. Once spent, the steam goes to a condenser of cool water inside tubes that convert the steam into water again.
From the time the plant opened in 1974 up until 2003, the Jim Bridger Mine produced millions of tons of coal for the plant. The facility decided to put forth a course of action that would extend the length of the mine’s life. As part of that extension plan, they built an underground mine that could supply the plant for another twenty years. Currently, the plant uses an underground longwall mining process. About 4 million tons of coal is produced annually through the underground operation system. The surface mine is also in use, and it produces
about a million tons each year in addition to that of the underground mine.
In addition to the plant’s use of coal, the plant also was likely constructed with asbestos to aid its daily operations because it was constructed before regulation of this material took hold. As facilities that produce high levels of heat in the attempt to harness great quantities of electricity, effective insulation materials were needed. Asbestos fit that role well, as a result of its natural ability to withstand heat, fire and electricity. However, those same fibers that made asbestos a strong insulator also posed a massive health threat to those who came into contact with them. As a result of their friability, this material can be easily inhaled or ingested, allowing the strong fibers to embed in the tissue lining surrounding organs. When present in this lining, these fibers eventually begin to irritate and cause scarring, eventually leading to the development of cancerous tumors or other respiratory conditions, like asbestosis.