The Demise of the 20th Century Cooling Tower

In the 20th century, the industrial boom led to the creation of hundreds, if not thousands of power plants around the world, created in order to deal with our rising demand for power. They have even reached an almost iconic status thanks to their inclusion in the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant in The Simpsons. However, as the decades moved on and engineers found better ways to power our cities, the cooling tower started to become a less common sight around the globe, and as power stations started to close, many towers were simply left open to the elements.

While many towns and cities have made their abandoned cooling towers part of their skyline, with some choosing to light them up at night and pain murals on them, other towns have had no choice but to get ride of them, due to concerns about the safety of the towers, and the discovery that they had become structurally unsound. But demolishing a cooling tower can take a team of engineers several weeks, as these structures are unlike many other buildings. So how exactly does a team of people dismantle a tower? Below is a very, very brief guide that reveals how much work and care goes into the demolition of just five cooling towers.

For up to five cooling towers, a team of up to 25 engineers would begin their work by drilling a series of holes around the base and up the side of each tower.

These holes would then be filled with explosives and the secured with a cover made of either a thick wire mesh of rubber, which is designed to stop debris from being blasted outside of the blast zone during the demolition.

Before the detonation begins, each tower is sprayed with water to minimise the dust cloud that the blast will create, and make it safer for spectators.

The explosives are then detonated in a fixed order; with the explosives at the base being detonated first, which cause the tower to lean to one side. The charges along the side of the tower are then detonated a fraction of a second after the ones at the base, this second blast causes the tower to fold into itself.

The demolition, as you can imagine, leaves a lot of rubble, and this debris can take months to clear, but it can also be used to fill the holes that were once water pools for each tower.

The lack of a cooling tower or two can make a real difference to a town’s horizon, and while some people are really attached to them, the fact is that they are a dying breed. However, as technology has moved on, and more and more people start to view the cooling tower as a relic of a bygone era, perhaps more of them will be saved. Until then, with cooling towers slowly declining across the globe, we can do nothing but sit and wait and see if anything can be done to preserve them.