Located on 60 acres in the southwestern town of Nucla, Colorado, the Nucla Station sits alongside the San Miguel River, drawing its water from there and from Trout Lake nearby. It uses this water supply for steam generation and cooling. The electrical generating station is able to produce 100 megawatts of electricity. Owned and operated by Tri-State G&T, a power supplier that sells electricity wholesale, the plant employs approximately 50 people currently.
Originally constructed as a coal-burning, conventional electric-generating station between 1957 and 1959, from 1985 to 1987 it was refitted, utilizing a process that made it the first circulating fluidized-bed combustion plant in the world, at a cost of $112 million. Nucla Station burns coal in a boiler to make steam that drives the turbines of the generator. When coal is burned, it releases waste products the industry calls “fouling” or “slagging,” and this hard mineral waste decreases efficiency. That, in turn, means more coal is needed to make electricity, resulting in an increase in emissions. New Horizon Mine, located 5 miles south of Nucla Station, delivers 6400 tons, 64 loads, of coal each day to the plant.
Nucla Station’s FBT–Fluidized Bed Technology results in more efficient fuel combustion and reduces contamination of the environment when compared to traditional plants using fossil fuels. The Colorado Environmental Leadership Program (ELP) awarded Nucla Station the bronze award for the improvements they made in water and air quality and for its compliance with Colorado’s guidelines for environmental responsibility.
For many decades, mills, factories, power plants and other worksites, including the Nucla Station, used the natural mineral, asbestos, because of its inherent ability to provide excellent insulation against heat and electricity. It was widely utilized in an effort to protect employees from possible burns while handling and using machines and equipment during normal operations in the plants. Unfortunately, instead of providing the desired level of protection, it had the effect of harming workers before the dangerous effects of the substance were widely acknowledged.
Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that sheds tiny particles into the surrounding atmosphere when handled or damaged. When these fibers are inhaled, they imbed themselves into the lining surrounding the heart, abdomen and lungs, causing scarring that can develop into cancerous tumors called mesothelioma. Other respiratory illnesses can also result from inhaling or ingesting the fibers, such as asbestosis or other respiratory health problems. Employees who worked in areas where asbestos dust was in the air are at a heightened risk for developing these diseases and encouraged to seek medical advice, even if they have not yet exhibited symptoms.