Suited Up. Armistead (right) with escort

In his 31 years in construction, on the industry side as well as with Engineering News-Record, Senior Editor Tom Armistead has had many adventures. He erected transmission towers, visited an LNG plant in Trinidad and an offshore oil-production vessel in Newfoundland. He even covered oil and power reconstruction efforts in Iraq. But his visit to Pickering A Nuclear Generating Station for this week’s cover story was like nothing else he has seen.

"This was my first visit to a nuclear plant," he says. "I think it would be easier to break into Fort Knox." Security includes airport-style screening plus personal sponsorship by an escort on staff, who never let him get out of sight.

The reactor was shut down in 1997, but the fuel remained in it, so Armistead learned first-hand the time-consuming daily drill that workers have to follow just to get to their work areas inside the reactor building. They suit up in plastic for radiation protection, leaving no exposed skin below the neck, don an air filter and step into an airlock to enter the containment. By the time he visited the plant last June, moving around was easy because much of the scaffolding had been removed. But Ontario Power Generation’s photos clearly show the challenges the crafts faced working in cramped spaces and negotiating mazes of scaffolding to maneuver heavy, bulky equipment as well as themselves and their tools.

Janice L. Tuchman