The Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant is located in Buchanan, New York, 24 miles north of New York City on the east bank of the Hudson River. It was one of the first nuclear power plants in the country and has been operating since 1963. It was built by Consolidated Edison, Inc., and is currently owned by Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc., a subsidiary of Entergy (New Orleans).
Indian Point has three nuclear reactors. One of them was permanently shut down in 1974, after a steam leak cracked a steel liner and allowed water into the reactor. The other two reactors are still operating, supplying power to energy-hungry New York City and the surrounding area.
Indian Point has a poor safety record with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and with local environmental activists. The power plant has been charged with many safety violations, including leaking up to 150 gallons of radioactive water everyday for four years, and dumping 900 gallons of contaminated water into the Hudson River. There have also been accusations of exposing hundreds of workers to asbestos as late as November 2004. Exposure to asbestos can have deadly consequences, such as the potential to develop an asbestos related disease (Most commonly asbestosis, or a scaring of the lungs) or even a more deadly form of asbestos cancer, such as mesothelioma.
Any industrial hot process, in operation between the 1920s and the mid-1970s, used asbestos-containing insulation. Most nuclear power plants, including Indian Point, were built in the 1960s and 1970s. Their construction didn’t use pounds of asbestos, but tons of it.
Many buildings housing nuclear power plants are built of transite, a concrete that contains asbestos fibers. These buildings can also contain floor tiles and roofing panels made from asbestos, as fire-proofing materials.
Nuclear power plants use literally miles of piping, most of which are hot processes and were insulated with asbestos. Insulation was also used for power cables, steam lines, condensers, valves, pumps, turbines, and cable trays. Asbestos was used in electrical wiring to minimize fire hazards. Instrument lines were wrapped with asbestos.
Some asbestos-containing insulation still remains in place at both operating Indian Point reactors, according to their own reports, filed with the NRC. A report filed in April of 2002 stated that the reactor pressure vessel head could not be visually examined because it was covered with a thick layer of asbestos block insulation, filled with asbestos cement, covered with two layers of asbestos tape, and again coated with asbestos cement over the tape.
The estimated cost to remove asbestos and other toxic wastes, such as PCBs, from one shut-down nuclear power plant in Illinois was $10 million. The cleanup isn’t expected to be complete until 2025.