Kewaunee Nuclear Generating Station

The Kewaunee Nuclear Generating Station is located near the shores of Lake Michigan in Carlton, Wisconsin. Originally commissioned in June of 1974, the facility has a single nuclear fuel pressurized water reactor that heats enough steam to drive a turbine generator unit capable of producing 556 megawatts of electricity. Dominion Generation is the current operator of the facility.

When it was completed, the Kewaunee Nuclear Plant was the fourth to be constructed and commissioned in the state of Wisconsin and the 44th to operate in the United States. Its inbound transmission lines carry electricity from two different substations; the We Energy North Appleton station is near the city of Appleton and the Point Beach Nuclear Generating facility’s power grid also provides current to Kewaunee Station. The power produced by the station is transmitted primarily to the Green Bay area.

In this type of facility, a hot water loop is in direct contact with the reactor elements and carries steam away from the reactor itself. This steam is slightly radioactive and is taken directly to near contact with another steam pipe that is filled with water. The “hot loop” heats the “cold loop” and the closed radioactive steam is transferred back to the reactor area. The “cold loop” is actually open to the environment and is non-radioactive; this steam powers the turbines.

The Kewaunee Nuclear Generating Station’s parent company, the Dominion Generation, has on several occasions been forced to take positive action concerning its power generating facilities. The Kewaunee site itself has a very clean safety record and has had only one incident of leakage; this occurred in 2006 and did not involve any radioactive liquid. However the plant itself is likely among many that used asbestos in its construction. This popular insulating compound was utilized for over a century in power stations, forges, smelting factories and shipyards because of its resistance to heat transfer. It is very inexpensive and is easily mixed with paints or other chemicals to create effective coating for wires. Protective clothing for workers was sometimes made with asbestos fibers as a heat shield when working around hot pipes or molten metal.

Asbestos was widely recognized in the 1980s to be linked to certain cancerous symptoms seen in people who had been exposed to the fibers in their work environment. Inhalation of asbestos can lead to a number of illnesses including asbestosis and mesothelioma. The symptoms of these conditions often do not show for years because the fibers can remain dormant for a considerable amount of time. Today, asbestos is being removed from most industrial facilities around the world, but former employees at the Kewaunee Nuclear Generating Station may be among those who may have been exposed in the earlier days of the facility’s operation.