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Interesting question

The company demolishing the defunct Didcot power station in Oxfordshire, where at least one person died on Tuesday, had not previously worked on a power station.

So how many power stations are dismantled each year/decade?

Obviously there’s a first time any company does something too. We cannot possibly operate an economy on the idea that only those who have previously done something be allowed to do it again. But I do wonder: are power stations something that we dismantle, say, 10 a decade of? In which case there will be a number of firms around who have done this. Or is it less than this, meaning that it’s odds on that anyone doing it will have demolition experience, but not necessarily of power stations?

27 thoughts on “Interesting question”

  1. Whose betting it went to the cheapest bidder and that was a bog standard demolition company who was used to blowing up office blocks and towers of council flats but this was their first power station.

  2. Here’s a proposal. The Royal Engineers set up a commercial arm and go in to plant initial charges. The Royal Artillery shell the wreckage (imagine the thrill of hearing 105mm shells over Oxford). Then the RAF go in, and the whole thing is finished off by a Tomahawk.

  3. Its a building. It may have housed a power station and the associated equipment, but its still just a building. And as such you hardly need specialist ‘power station demolition’ experience, just normal demolition experience. Whether this company had that is open to question, but one assumes that they’d have to have some track record of demolition work done.

    The point it that demolition is dangerous work, and accidents can happen, even with the best preparations.

  4. All depends by what you mean by “power station”. I’ve got PV panels on my roof so my house is a power station in one sense, and as Jim remarks most of a power station is just a bunch of buildings.

    However, assuming you mean only big power stations (Didcot A was 2GW max) there are only 69 active ones of 400MW and up. 10 are nukes, which need special treatment, at least for the reactors. Lifetimes for non-nukes seem to range from 30-70 years, so you’re talking of the order of one a year.

  5. Interested has the right idea.

    I was talking about something similar the other night: the “proper” fire safety course I did many years ago was a whole day of memorable entertainment, even the desk bits and videos were pretty good.

    It occurred then that the Fire Brigade has a theme-park style money earner on their hands, and the education was also first rate and useful.

    The Forces do certain things incredibly well, and people are fascinated and love it when they do. Even better if there’s no actual enemy, body bags, etc, and there’s no need to go “over commercial”.

  6. During the latter stages of its construction and commissioning, I had reason to visit Didcot in the course of my work.

    Reading of its demolition some years after it was decommissioned is a new way of realising one is getting old!

  7. I haven’t read beyond the headlines on this, but it occurs to me that in a coal fired power station there may be areas where a build up of coal dust occurs and this may need special treatment as it can be explosive under certain circumsances.

  8. Bloke in North Dorset

    Unless the demolition company lied during the PQQs and contract negotiations and turn out to have been incompetent or not qualified, any resulting criminal or civil cases shold be against those who let the contract, Pour encourage …. Of course, if they were negligent then the full force of the law should descend upon them.

  9. In the 70’s, 80’s & 90’s a few every year, since then not so much, but should be a one or two a year after recent decommission ings like Didcot.

  10. @BiND:it doesn’t matter if the demolition company lied during the bidding process, and didn’t have the correct documentation, the landowner is still liable for any contractor working on their property, and ensuring that they operate to the legal safety standards.

  11. MC, Julia: one person is known to have died, and three are unaccounted for. It’s a resonable assumption, but not quite a certainty, that their bodies are under the rubble.

    The rubble pile looks pretty unstable, so any rescue attempt would be at prohibitive risk to the rescuers.

  12. I don’t think we should be demolishing them as the margin between peak demand and peak output is very slender. The other “greened” Didcot plant is burning woodchips from forests across the Atlantic: Gaia and karma?

  13. @ljh: Didcot B is a gas fired power station, which is still operational. Didcot A (which is being demolished) was coal/gas fired, but did burn a small % of biomass for a few years before closure.

  14. I think they have to apply partial saw-cuts to the supporting pillars before planting the explosive charges, which blow away the remaining support. Maybe they took step 1 a bit too far.

  15. The turbine hall of a power station would be a lot larger, with much bigger and heavier spans, than pretty much anything a normal demolition company would come across. They probably could have used the experience of people who have done a similar job before. Should have insisted on it, in fact.

  16. Interested nailed this one perfectly. With an average of only one demolition a year the market is simply to small to allow effective competition. The advantages to military training are numerous including quality control checks on explosives and special ops training. If you don’t want to have this market fully under government control then have the arms manufacturers bid for the right to blow shit up.

  17. Preweakening a structure for explosive demolition is extremely tricky and carries, by its nature, its own risks.

    There’s simply too many variables and unknown specifics to do more than speculate. The reports don’t even tell how far they were with weakening the structure, and without that information you can’t possibly tell what could have caused this.

    It *looks* like they’ve weakened the structure too far, because it has come down “as planned”, but without the explosives that should have been necessary to accomplish this.
    But that would mean that either the engineers responsible would have made a rather significant error in their calculations, or the steel itself wasn’t as strong as advertised.

  18. I’m currently training to inspect these big power station boilers. The buildings most certainly are not just buildings. As the boilers are generally hung from the roof and weigh many thousands of tons some of the supporting steelwork can be of a far larger size than you might expect for a building of this size. Precutting of some of the supports if not all of them would I think be needed as the steel in some of the universal beams will be 3 – 4 inches thick. You’d need a heck of a lot of explosive to cut through them without pre cutting. The trouble then is just the shear mass supported above, just one being weakened too much and you will get the whole lot collapsing in very short order.

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