Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant
The Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station is located just east of the city of Homestead in southern Florida. It is a twin reactor facility owned by Florida Power & Light, one of the largest electric utility companies in the eastern United States. In addition to the nuclear reactors, there are three other production units that operate on oil and natural gas. The combined output capacity at the facility is in excess of 3.3 gigawatts, and the electricity serves residents and businesses in southern Florida.
The two nuclear reactor units at Turkey Point were built in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with the reactors becoming operational in late 1972 and early 1973. In the early 1980s, the steam generators at the power plant were replaced, and emergency diesel generators were added in 1991. The facility has plans for continued expansion and expects new generating units to be operational by the year 2019.
In 1992, the facility was struck by Hurricane Andrew but suffered no serious damage. The 2008 Florida blackout forced temporary shutdown of the plant due to a lack of incoming current, and the result was a loss of electricity to more than 2,500,000 customers.
The plant’s operator, Florida Power & Light, has been a leader in providing electricity from non-coal power stations; more than half of the company’s electricity is produced from nuclear, hydroelectric or gas combustion generators. This has reduced the amount of particulates emitted from power plants significantly and saved the company money otherwise spent on the high cost of maintaining and cleaning older fossil-fuel power stations.
Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station is one of many power plants in the United States where asbestos was used. Coal-fired generator units and those powered by oil or natural gas employ furnaces that become extremely hot, and the work areas were protected by using insulation made from asbestos. This lightweight material is a naturally occurring compound that is fibrous in composition and effective as a fire retardant and insulation on steam pipes, wall panels and ceilings.
Unfortunately, asbestos is a toxic fiber that causes serious health risks. As buildings age, their walls, pipe wraps and surfaces coated with asbestos begin to degrade and fibers become airborne. Workers that endured long-term exposure were at risk of developing asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma. Unfortunately the symptoms of these diseases often do not appear for decades after contact with asbestos. Many former employees at Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station may have worked around this material for years without showing symptoms of illness caused by asbestos fibers yet.