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Demolition looms for iconic Didcot towers
LOVE them or loathe them, the cooling towers of Didcot Power Station are some of the most iconic images in Oxfordshire.
But one day you could be driving over them in your car.
The 70,000 tonnes of concrete in the six towers could be put to work in a civil engineering project such as a new road once they’re finally brought down.
The coal-fired Didcot A will close at the end of March after 42 years of service, and demolition is set to begin some time after September.
Demolition firms are currently competing to win the multi-million pound demolition contract.
Station manager Phil Noake said: “The method of demolition will really depend on how the experts propose to do it.”
Nick Williamson, managing director of demolition contractor Maylarch, has said that a controlled implosion would be the most likely method.
He said: “There would be few machines that could reach that height.
“It is much more likely that they will be taken down with a controlled implosion using explosives.”
Contractors can pre-weaken the structure to ensure it collapses in a certain way, and charges are set so they will only detonate in one direction.
But before the demolition begins, the plant must be decomissioned.
All hazardous materials – such as the hundreds of tonnes of oil in the plant – must be removed.
And the contractor must work out how it will dispose of any hazardous waste such as asbestos.
Mr Noake said: “We have got a lot of systems on site – electrical, oil tanks and gas – and we can’t just stop generating and walk away.
“It is about making everything safe – emptying oil tanks for example – so the demolition contractor can come in.
“We have a gas pipeline that comes on site. The supply company Transco will purge the line so it is clear and safe.”
Mr Williamson said most contractors were now able to reuse 95 per cent of materials from a building being demolished.
He said: “The contractor works out the salvageability of all materials such as scrap metal and concrete. This is where demolition contractors are extremely good.
“At Didcot there will be a huge amount of concrete, which could be processed on site in crushers.
“This could be used in a large-scale civil engineering project, for example, like building a new road.”
In 2008, Power station owner RWE npower opted Didcot A out of the European Union’s Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD), regulation aimed at reducing emissions, which meant it was legally obliged to close.
The company staged an exhibition at Didcot Civic Hall earlier this month to give local residents a chance to find out more about the demolition and decommissioning process.