Pilgrim Nuclear Generating Station
The Pilgrim Nuclear Generating Station is the only functioning nuclear power station in Massachusetts, located in Plymouth, on Cape Cod Bay. It was built in 1972 for $231 million and was sold by Boston Edison to the Entergy Corporation in Louisiana in 1999. The Pilgrim Nuclear Generating Station’s operation license will no longer be useable in 2012, though it has applied for renewal and is awaiting approval by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The plant stores its nuclear waste on site, an issue that has raised concern among locals, especially those who have come together to join the Pilgrim Watch, an organization that seeks to prevent the station from renewing its license. The Pilgrim station employs wet storage protocol, in which used fuel rods are stored in water. Some worry that an earthquake or other natural disaster may cause a dangerous breach and are pushing for a dry cask storage facility offsite.
Besides the dangers of nuclear waste, many power plant employees were and are at risk for a serious, rare cancer called mesothelioma, which is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a natural mineral that was popularized in the early 20th century as a building material for insulation and protective products. Asbestos was not easily affected by extreme heat or other dangerous materials, and because it was inexpensive, was used in many power plants across the United States.
Asbestos, when disturbed, is prone to crumbling and slight disintegration. This disintegration causes microscopic fibers to float through the air. These fibers are undetectable without the proper equipment, and many workers were unaware that they were breathing them in. Some fibers can even be swallowed.
When workers took in these fibrous particles, they settled in the lungs and over a long period of time, resulted in mesothelioma. Mesothelioma symptoms are very subtle. Most victims of asbestos exposure do not even realize that they are sick. Through a cancer screening, physicians can determine whether or not a victim has mesothelioma. However, because symptoms are latent for 20 to 50 years, most victims do not know that there is anything wrong with them medically. Though some power plant workers remain healthy, others are at high risk for mesothelioma through exposure to asbestos in the workplace.