Connecticut Yankee Atomic Plant, Haddam Neck, Connecticut
The Connecticut Yankee Atomic Plant, located in Haddam Neck, Connecticut, was in use from 1968 to 1996. During this time, the nuclear power plant produced over 110 kilowatt-hours of electricity. The plant has since been fully decommissioned, meaning that the buildings have been carefully dismantled and all radioactive material has been removed from the site.
Decommissioning a nuclear power plant is a long process that requires a high level of care, because it requires workers to remove dangerous nuclear materials as safely as possible. In order to ensure that the community is protected, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection will monitor the groundwater near the site of the plant until 2011 or longer.
Nuclear Power and the Environment
In some ways, nuclear power is actually a cleaner option than coal or fossil fuels. This is because nuclear plants use radioactive materials to heat water into steam, which in turn powers electricity-generating turbines. Because no fuels are being burned, no greenhouse gasses or other byproducts are released into the air.
However, the use of radioactive material is inherently dangerous in many ways. First, there is the chance that people will be directly exposed to radiation, which can cause a painful and potentially fatal condition known as radiation poisoning. In addition, lower levels of radiation released into the environment can extensively damage local flora and fauna.
When a nuclear power plant is designed well and managed carefully, the risk for radiation leaks is low. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. For example, the Connecticut Yankee Atomic Plant was closed in 1996 amid accusations of multiple safety violations. While there are no reports of individuals being exposed to dangerous levels of radiation, government officials decided it was not a chance worth taking.
In addition to the dangers of radioactive materials, nuclear plans – like all power plants – can be built and maintained with dangerous materials. For example, prior to 1987, many power plants contained the toxic mineral asbestos. In fact, asbestos was still being removed from the site of the Connecticut Yankee Atomic Plant as of 2002.