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Asbestos Exposures at Nine Mile Point Nuclear Generating Station – Oswego, New York

The Nine Mile Point nuclear generating station sits on 900 acres of land, along Oswego’s Lake Ontario. It shares land with the Fitzpatrick Nuclear power plant. Once owned by the Niagara Mohawk Company, Nine Mile Point has been connected to Central New York’s power grid since 1974. The plant was constructed by local labor affiliated with the Chicago Bridge & Iron Company, and features two General Electric water reactors, constructed and installed by employees of General Electric. In 2012, Exelon acquired the Nine Mile Point nuclear generating station.

Members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’ Local 97 carry out nine Mile Point’s power generation. Activities at Nine Mile Point center around the worksite’s two powerful General Electric nuclear reactors, which combined, can produce up to 1,757 megawatts of power at any given time. Hundreds of large and small pumps, including feed water pumps, circulating pumps, condenser pumps, fluid pumps and vacuum pumps, move approximately 250,000 gallons of Lake Ontario’s water to and from the reactors. A local Syracuse newspaper once noted the critical task some employees hold of just watching over these pumps for 12 hours at a time.

Using Lake Ontario’s water, these powerful pumps move cold water to the General Electric nuclear reactors, where the pressurized water reactors heat the water, converting it to steam. This pressurized steam was moved by valves and piping to large turbines, which would send the power to a turbo generator connected to Niagara’s power grid. Additional equipment, including auxiliary pumps, valves air compressors, gas-fueled turbines, furnaces, tanks, condensers and a cooling tower were installed throughout Nine Mile Point’s 900 acres.

When Nine Mile Point was constructed, local labor from Chicago Bridge & Iron Company and General Electric constructed various buildings and structures to house the critical equipment. Reactor rooms containing the General Electric products, as well as supporting equipment, as well as turbine and generator rooms, are spread out over the land. Other structures designed by Niagara included numerous pump and gauge rooms, as well as general equipment rooms to hold Nine Mile Point’s supporting machinery. Most of these rooms were constructed with little to no ventilation, with construction focused on sealing the equipment from exterior exposure.

Documents concerning Nine Mile Point’s operations show that scheduled maintenance and refueling activities occurred every 18 months. During these shutdowns, Nine Mile Point would be taken “offline,” and crews of employees would inspect every piece of machinery installed on the plant’s 900 acres. Due to the size of the plant, and the sheer number of products installed, the plant would often hire hundreds of independent contractors to assist Niagara employees. Over the course of a month or longer, workers would inspect machines, and determine the amount of maintenance necessary.

Individuals employed at the Nine Mile Point plant were regularly exposed to vast amounts of asbestos. The buildings containing the plant’s core equipment were loaded with asbestos products, including insulation, pipe covering, gaskets, packing, seals, rope and raw fiber. With poor ventilation, workers spent hours in these buildings, monitoring equipment and performing routine maintenance. Generally, this work included removing worn asbestos gaskets and packing from equipment like valves, pumps and air compressors, to prevent leaks and equipment damage. At other times, workers reinsulated high-temperature equipment.

During Nine Mile Point’s scheduled maintenance periods, this work was amplified. With the assistance of independent contractors, employees inspected each piece of plant equipment, which required removing old asbestos components from the products. This overhaul work involved scraping worn asbestos gaskets and packing from hundreds of pieces of equipment. Once removed, workers would cut or fabricate new asbestos components. Research performed at laboratories that recreated these work environments has revealed that manipulating just a single gasket or piece of packing releases large numbers of asbestos fibers into the air. With poor ventilation, many of these fibers were breathed-in by the plant’s workers.

If you or a loved one worked at the Nine Mile Point power plant and have developed malignant mesothelioma, lung cancer or another asbestos-related disease, please call today for a free consultation.

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