Point Beach Nuclear Plant
Built by WE Energies, the Point Beach Nuclear Plant is located on Lake Michigan to the north of Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Currently owned and operated by the Florida Power & Light group (FPL), Point Beach first began to generate electricity on December 21, 1970, with a second unit becoming active just under two years later in October of 1972.
The Point Beach plant is powered by a pressurized water design nuclear reactor. In a pressurized water nuclear plant, heat generated from nuclear reactions is used to heat water in a closed-circuit. Because there is nowhere for the superheated water to escape, it remains liquid despite incredible heat. Water from this circuit is used to heat a second water source, which has had no contact with radiation. The second water source creates steam used to generate electricity.
This process is thought to generate incredibly clean and safe power. The facility is still in excellent working condition and was able to successfully apply for an extension of its license up through 2030. Originally approved to generate power for 40 years, the additional 20 years were granted in 2005.
While nuclear power is often cited as unsafe, the reactor does not release any toxins. Instead, the health hazard came from the potential presence of asbestos insulation installed near the incredibly high temperature equipment in many power plants built in the 1960s and 1970s. Commonly used because of its non-conductivity, asbestos unfortunately caused serious illness when the toxic material was inhaled or ingested.
Asbestos is a carcinogen, responsible for causing lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a cancer present in the lining around the lungs and is rare. As a result of its toxic properties, asbestos has become heavily regulated and is being systematically removed from any area where it is still present. The unfortunate reality is that due to the fact that asbestos-related conditions are extremely slow to develop, the true dangers presented by the substance are not revealed until many years after it has been in wide use.