Workers Bring Down Paducah Site’s Tallest Structure

A controlled demolition of the high-pressure fire water tower at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Environmental Management Paducah Site last week took mere seconds, but it required months of planning and preparation ahead to ensure the approximately 300-foot water tower was brought down safely to the ground.

The demolition of the water tower — a part of the site since 1958 — is a striking horizon change.

With its recognizable red and white checkerboard pattern, the water tower was taken out of service when the Paducah Site transitioned its fire suppression systems to a dry-hybrid system.

Plans to demolish the water tower began late last year as deactivation and remediation contractor Four Rivers Nuclear Partnership (FRNP) evaluated methods for demolition.

“Removal of unused facilities paves the way for expanded cleanup of the Paducah Site,” Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office Manager Joel Bradburne said. “In turn, a project like this also provides opportunities to provide recyclable material to the Paducah Area Community Reuse Organization to fund economic development in the region.”

Controlled demolition of water towers using explosives is not a new approach in the DOE complex and by bringing the water tower to the ground, workers are able to easily cut away sections of the structure without the use of aerial lifts, eliminating a significant hazard.

The controlled use of explosives uses precision and methodical execution to ensure a structure falls in a specific way that drastically minimizes flying debris. In the case of the water tower at the Paducah Site, relief cuts were made into the support legs, which when impacted by the explosives, acted like a hinge ensuring the structure fell in a designated area.

“By demolishing the tower with this method, the hazard for our workers is significantly reduced and I applaud the effort of our team to put safety first to complete this major milestone for the site,” FRNP Program Manager Myrna Redfield said.