Get an inside look at the planning and engineering behind creating some of the greatest buildings and machines ever made. MegaStructures takes you inside the superstructures and all the inner workings that muscle together to make the structures function as a whole. Megastructures are all around us; skyscrapers in big cities, subway trains years ahead of their time. Discover these and more!
This fascinating documentary follows the elaborate and dangerous demolition of four obsolete cooling towers at Sellafield power plant. A family-run company from America with specialist expertise in demolition has been selected to dismantle the 90m-high towers. The team must plant 4,000 sticks of dynamite in such a way that the structures do not hit nearby buildings when they collapse.
At Sellafield nuclear power plant on the Cumbrian coast, four cooling towers are scheduled for demolition. The 90m-high towers, each with a circumference of 183 metres, stand just a short distance away from buildings that house nuclear reactors and nuclear processing equipment. The structures must be brought down in a narrow drop zone facing away from the power plant, with the minimum amount of flying debris and shockwaves.
This risky job has been assigned to a firm of specialists from Maryland, USA. Controlled Demolition, Inc is run by the Loizeaux family and is one of the few companies with experience of detonating cooling towers at a nuclear power station. However, this is the first time they have worked at a plant that is still operational. The firm is headed by Mark Loizeaux, assisted by his wife, Sherry, and daughters Devon and Stacey. “The harder the structure, the more people that say it’s impossible, the more eager he is to do it,” says Stacey of her father.
The four cooling towers, intended to last for 50 years, are now nearly 60-years-old. They are in danger of collapsing from the high winds racing in off the sea. “They haven’t got a lot longer to stand,” says Sellafield employee Jane Prosser. “The condition of them has been deteriorating rapidly.” The standard method of destruction – using a wrecking ball – would throw up clouds of dust that could close the plant for months, so the company has opted for a controlled implosion.
Mark and his family begin the painstaking task of inserting 900 sticks of dynamite in each of the cooling towers. The plan is to ‘walk’ the towers away from the surrounding buildings. Charges in the middle of the towers will collapse the central structure, while further explosions in the legs will bring them to their knees, toppling them like tree trunks. To minimise debris, which could rain down on the plant, the charges will be covered with metal fencing and giant strips of fabric.
Everyone involved in the operation is aware of the need to avoid mistakes. “Sellafield has had a chequered history,” points out expert Charles Moran. Between 1950 and 2000, it reported 21 serious incidents, including a fire in a nuclear core that was the worst accident of its kind until Chernobyl in 1986. “If this job doesn’t go according to plan,” Charles reflects, “it’ll be a disaster.”
Unfortunately, strong winds hamper efforts to place a large fabric ‘skirt’ around the structure to catch debris. “If the wind blows like this, it’s really gonna play havoc with our curtain,” says employee Matt Zaaiman. To make matters worse, the skirt threatens to interfere with the charges that have already been laid, risking an explosion. After some debate, officials decide to erect only half the curtain.
Mark then makes a final check of the detonator cable. “We have to assume that if something can go wrong, it will,” he says, citing one occasion when rabbits chewed through cables. The team then retreats to a safe vantage point from which to record the blast. “You’ll see a very slight bow towards each other, almost like a curtsy, and then they should come straight down,” says Stacey. But will the demolition go as smoothly as she describes?
Title : Megastructures
Episode Title : Sellafield Demolition
Release Date : 17/06/2009
UK Air Date : 17/06/2009
Genre : Docu
Codec : XviD
Size : 350MB
Video : 640x352 25fps
Audio : VBR MP3 48khz 128kbps
Airtime : 30mins
Channel : Five
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