10-second blast to destroy K-Reactor cooling tower at SRS to cost $4 million

Tower to tumble to rubble

It took three years and $90 million to build, and this morning, the cooling tower for Savannah River Site's dormant K-Reactor will implode to rubble in just 10 seconds.

The project, part of the site's $1.6 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act program, is being managed by two contractors -- American DND and Controlled Demolition Inc. -- who will use explosives and gravity to level the 450-foot-tall structure at 10 a.m.

Doug Loizeaux, with Controlled Demolition, said explosives will be placed in 3,860 locations along the lower 250 feet of the structure. The resulting detonations, fueled by 1,300 pounds of nitroglycerin-based explosives, will force the tower to implode onto its base.

South Carolina Highway 125 will be closed 20 minutes before and 10 minutes after the detonation, he said. No access, even for employees, will be granted to the site, but a series of strategically placed video cameras will be used to record and share the event.

The cost of the project is about $4 million, which includes demolition and removing rubble.

K-Reactor, located across the Savannah River from Plant Vogtle, first went critical in 1954 and was one of the site's five original nuclear materials production reactors.

It was shut down in 1988, along with L- and P-reactors, but later earmarked for restart with a mission to produce tritium -- an essential ingredient in hydrogen bombs.

According to Savannah River Site at 50, a book on the site's history produced in cooperation with the U.S. Energy Department, K-Reactor was upgraded in the 1990s to more stringent safety regulations -- at a cost of more than $1 billion -- but its restart was delayed because environmental standards called for a cooling tower similar to those used at commercial nuclear power plants.

In June 1990, the Energy Department announced that it was building the cooling tower to comply with an order from the S.C. Department of Health & Environmental Control, the book said.

The original price was estimated at $79 million, but the costs had risen to $90 million by the time the tower was completed in 1992.

Although the tower was to be connected to K-Reactor in December 1992, it was never actually used because K-Reactor never progressed beyond a test run.

In December 1991, a leak in one of the K-Reactor heat exchangers released 150 pounds of tritium-contaminated water into the Savannah River, which fueled political opposition to the project.

In February 1992, the Energy Department announced that the reactor would be used only as a reserve facility, to be tested and then shut down unless needed.

The reactor was raised to criticality in a June 8, 1992, test, later placed on "cold standby," and in 1996, placed in shutdown condition.

In 2000, the K-Reactor building was converted to the K Area Materials Storage Facility, according to an Energy Department fact sheet.

K-reactor tower

BUILT: 1989 through 1992, but never used

DIMENSIONS: 450 feet tall and 330 feet in diameter

CONCRETE USED: 13,000 cubic yards, or 52 million pounds

VIEW VIDEO of a similar cooling tower demolition at Trojan Nuclear plant in Oregon at ">style="bold">www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImzanXzAU2o

Source: SRS