BIG PICK Cap is first piece removed from the dome.

Nearly 20 years after work stopped on the second unit containment dome of the Seabrook, N.H., nuclear powerplant, officials have finally ordered the demolition of the rusting steel structure. Their action is the last chapter of a costly and protracted battle that inflated construction costs from $1 billion to over $6 billion and puts to rest any concerns about future expansion.

The $2-million demolition project, awarded in May to Aulson Co. Inc., Methuen, Mass., involves dismantling a 140-ft-dia, 70-ft-tall steel plate liner, removing 40-ft-tall sections of #18 rebar from the dome foundation, demolishing a fuel storage building and cutting exposed rebar on several other incomplete buildings. The dome was never finished with a reinforced concrete cover.

"We need to take down the dome and the 400-ton polar crane and cut the porcupine steel for a September completion," says Rick Thomas, Aulson vice president. "The metal will be sold as scrap by our subcontractor."

Aulson subbed the lifting and cutting to Lynn, Mass.-based Testa Corp., which brought in a 500-ton crawler crane with a 280-ft-long lattice boom to pick the 3�8-in. steel plates, each weighing between 14,000 and 62,000 lb. Workers will remove the plates using cutting torches.

RECYCLE Steel sheet and rebar must all be removed by hand and will be sold for scrap.

To prepare the site, Testa first demolished a nearby 80 x 60 x 30-ft fuel-storage building, filling and compacting it as a mat for the crane. While many pieces will be picked, workers discovered that some of the plates were not completely welded and bent during cutting so the firm is using controlled drops and letting the unsafe pieces fall into the dome area where they will be cut and removed.

About 70 pieces in total will be removed to the top of a 50-ft-tall reinforced concrete wall. Eight layers of 21�4- in. rebar weighing 13.6 pounds per ft will be cut and removed in 3-ft sections. "As far as we know this is the first dome ever demolished manually in the world," says Paul J. Comeau, Aulson project manager. Notes Robert Levi, Testa project manager: "The methodology is not that difficult but everything we do, from tie-offs to pick points to bringing in equipment, are all under strict scrutiny because site safety and security are overriding concerns."

Located on an estuary about two miles west of Hampton Beach, a popular tourist attraction, Seabrook has a long and contentious history. Work began on the plant in 1976. From the start the proposed 2,300-Mw, two-unit plant faced problems: licensing delays, strident political opposition and finally bankruptcy. In 1984, with construction nearly 30% complete, work was stopped on unit two. The plant was finished in 1986 but never activated until 1990. In an echo of the old controversy, David E. Hills, president of the Seacoast Anti-Pollution League, Portsmouth, N.H., says, "We’re thankful that they’re taking it down. It’s a shame the money was expended in the first place to put up the dome."

Last year FPL Energy, Juno Beach, Fla., bought the 1,160-Mw plant for $798 million. Included in the deal was a $2-million beautification fund for unit two. "We had five years to decide what to do with the unit–cover it, paint it or demolish it," says Alan L. Griffith, FPL spokesman. "Since you can’t put lipstick on a pig we decided to demolish it because removing the steel improves the overall aesthetic of the plant." FPL Energy is part of the FPL Group, which also owns Florida Power & Light Co. and FPL Fiber.