Smart Takes

Abandoned nuclear power plants revived

Abandoned nuclear power plants revived

Posting in Education

Plants abandoned mid-construction in the 1970s have been put to some creative uses -- from museums to film sets to amusement parks.

Many nuclear power plants under construction worldwide were abandoned in the 1970s and 80s because of skyrocketing construction costs, increased regulation, and cheaper coal and oil sources. Many of these sites remain standing, undergoing demolition over the course of decades, such as the Marble Hill nuclear power plant in Indiana, or just left as-is.

But some of these abandoned plants are being put to more creative uses.

Last week, the New York Times reported that one abandoned site in the Philippines has been turned into a museum to educate people about nuclear energy. And it made me wonder: what have been the fates of other abandoned nuclear facilities?

  • Install a ferris wheel and -- boom! -- you've got an amusement park. This is what happened to East Germany's SNR-300 nuclear power plant, which now has 40 rides and is known as Wunderland Kalkar. The plant-turned-park receives more than 600,000 visitors each year.
  • Why put such a large structure to waste? The Satsop plant in Washington State was gutted and turned into a business park for offices and manufacturing. (Photos here)
  • James Cameron constructed the set for his 1989 film The Abyss at the Cherokee Nuclear Power Plant in South Carolina, shooting underwater scenes in the original containment vessel for the nuclear reactor and the turbine pit.
  • Many abandoned cooling towers have been painted over and now feature giant murals, such as these in France and South Africa.
  • Some have been converted to utilize other forms of energy, such as the Midland Cogeneration Venture in Michigan, which now is powered by natural gas.
  • And maybe construction will be completed one day, as has been proposed at the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant in Tennessee.

Keep this list in mind if you have an abandoned nuclear plant of your very own.

Photo: Flickr/Thomas Sly

Share this

Hannah Waters

Weekend Editor

Weekend Editor Hannah Waters is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn. She writes a blog on the Scientific American network, and has written for Nature Medicine and The Scientist. She holds Biology and Latin degrees from Carleton College. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure