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Dresden Nuclear Power Plant, Morris, Illinois

The Dresden Nuclear Power Plant near Morris, Illinois consists of three units. Unit 1 was in operation from 1960 to 1978; Units 2 and 3 have been in operation since 1970. Each of its active units is capable of generating 912 megawatts of electricity. The plant currently provides power for the city of Chicago and other parts of northern Illinois.

The plant, which is owned and operated by the Exelon Corporation, was the first privately financed nuclear power plant in the US. Dresden Unit 1 has been designated a Nuclear Historic Landmark by the American Nuclear Society. The plant currently employs about 800 people.

Nuclear Power and the Environment

While environmentalists have long been concerned about the environmental impact of nuclear power, it is actually a relatively clean source of energy. Because nuclear plants use radioactive materials to heat water into steam, rather than burning fossil fuels or gas, they release relatively few byproducts into the air. However, this power source does have its drawbacks.

One primary concern for people who live near nuclear plants is the possibility of a leak or other emergency that could place people’s lives in danger. When people are directly exposed to radiation, they can develop a potentially life-threatening condition known as radiation poisoning.

For residents of Morris, this danger was highlighted in 2009 when routine tests at the Dresden Power Plant found a leak of tritium, a dangerous byproduct of nuclear reactions. The Exelon Corporation stated that the leak was contained and did not pose a threat to nearby populations. Like other nuclear power plants, this location has built-in safety devices to protect the population in the event of a leak or other unforeseen event.

However, leaks are not the only potential hazard of nuclear power plants. Like all power plants, many were built with dangerous materials such as asbestos prior to 1987. People who lived near or worked in a power plant of any kind before the passage of asbestos regulations should be aware of this potential health hazard.

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