Mohave Power Plant
Once an operational facility out of Laughlin, Nevada, the Mohave Power Station was a 1,580-megawatt, coal-fueled power plant. The majority owner and operator of the plant was the Southern California Edison Company. The plant was comprised of two power units, each capable of generating 790 megawatts of electricity.
Mohave Power Station was the only plant of its type in the U.S. that had a coal delivery system that utilized coal-slurry pipelines. This pipeline from the Peabody Energy Mine in Arizona, 275 miles away, to the Mohave Power Station had the capability to deliver over 650 tons of coal on an hourly basis. The facility’s two units went fully operational in 1971.
On June 9, 1985, with six-hundred pounds per square inch of pressure on it a 30-inch hot reheat line burst apart, releasing a 1,000-degree cloud of steam that blasted through a door leading to the station’s control room. Six employees were fatally scalded and ten others were injured. The steam piping had to be replaced, resulting in the shutdown of the station for a period of six months.
In May 1991, an accident report was completed which stated that the Southern California Edison Company’s actions, or lack thereof, were a critical factor in the cause of the accident. The company knowingly operated the system for long periods of time at temperatures that exceeded design specifications. In addition, a “design flaw” prevented workers from being able to control the system’s temperatures. The steam pipe was not inspected or maintained on a routine basis, and the report also stated that safety was not a priority at the plant. The focus was on high production.
The report recommended that massive changes be made to the company’s policies, including yearly reports to the Public Utility Commission on the facility’s maintenance, inspection and safety programs. In addition, the report stated that costs should not be absorbed by the plant’s rate-paying customers. Instead, the report recommended these costs be covered by the shareholders because the incident was avoidable.
The plant was closed in December 2005 to settle a CAA lawsuit brought in 1998 by environmental organizations. The plant had been singled out as a primary pollution source of the Grand Canyon and surrounding areas. Additionally, the Navajo and Hopi tribes refused the plant the use of water to make up slurry from the local aquifer. Numerous plans were considered, but most proved too impractical or costly to be effective, and in 2007, Southern California Edison abandoned attempts to sell or restart the plant.
In June 2009, Southern California Edison stated that the Mohave Generating Station would be dismantled and the site would be vacated, including the removal of all plant equipment. The dismantling began in October 2009, and the cost associated with the project is expected to run as high as 30 million dollars. The closing of the plant resulted in 300 lost jobs. On March 11, 2011, the plant’s exhaust stack was razed by explosives.
In addition to the plant’s fatal incident in June 1985, the plant’s production of large quantity of dangerous gases and fine particle toxins posed another threat to residents of the area around the plant. On average, the plant released 19,000 tons of nitrogen oxide, 40,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and 2,000 tons of fine particles. However, the unsafe materials used inside the plant put the employees in additional danger as well. One of the most common materials used in power plants was asbestos, which insulated numerous areas, including pipes like the one that burst. When the material is damaged through age and normal wear, or an accident such as the one that took ten employee lives, it becomes friable and can enter the body. Once inside the body, this material can lead to the development of a lethal cancer known as mesothelioma.