Contractors overlooked as decomissioning interest soars

By Steve Ducker02 September 2021

The large audience for the decommissiong process receives little coverage of the stellar efforts of the demolition contractors that carry out the work, says Steve Ducker.

Demolition & Recycling International features decommissioning in the upcoming September-October issue. Which is probably just as well. Because if you were to look for coverage of this vital part of the industry outside the pages and websites of its own business press, there is a strong chance you will end up drawing a blank.

In fact, that is not strictly true. In the United Kingdom, where I am writing this from, if you put the word out there that a power station – or even just a chimney – is about to breathe its last then news channels and websites will be inundated with coverage of the structure’s demise.

And why not? The audience is there. Have you ever seen footage of explosive demolition that did not include a crowd of locals – and possibly enthusiasts from further afield – squeezing up as close as possible to the exclusion zone and craning their necks for a slightly better view of the proceedings?

Blowdowns
No question, demolition makes good video. But few of these iconic blowdowns are ever accompanied by a mention of the contractor whose knowledge, experience and professionalism were ultimately responsible for the pictures the millions at home and online have been watching. Unless there is a fleeting, subliminal advertisement-type glimpse of a contractor in a branded hi-vis jacket or hard hat, you could easily find the whole event passing you by and, from a demolition point of view at least, leaving you none the wiser.

One leading broadcaster’s website covered the recent Ferrybridge C power station chimney removal and listed several related stories for visitors looking to take their interest further.

Here is a short summary of how these projects were presented:

  • Ferrybridge – no mention of demolition contractor
  • Eggborough – no mention of demolition contractor
  • Ironbridge – quotes from development company
  • Kellingley Colliery – interview with development company
  • Morandi Bridge, Italy – no mention of demolition contractor.

And finally, in splendid isolation, Rugeley Power Station (pictured), complete with quotes from contractor Brown and Mason. Fair play to BAM; ideally it could share the secret of its success with others less fortunate.

Maybe it is as simple as “following the money”, and it is unreasonable to expect news crews to give airtime to “dirty” old demolition when the people behind a shiny new regeneration project are standing a few metres away on the same site. Why bother with a contractor when the government’s main man of climate change is available with a soundbite ready for the delivery?

Sonic Booms
Around 20 years ago I attended a conference in an industry unrelated to demolition. It took place in Orlando, USA and the motivational speaker at the top of the programme was a former astronaut, a topical choice as the Space Shuttle was coming into land that night.

He advised us to stay awake until 1am so we could listen for the sonic booms – but in the event they took place 90 minutes later as the re-entry conditions were not right and the shuttle had to go round the block, so to speak, before eventually completing the exercise.

So, there you are. If demolition can meet expectations in a way that even NASA can’t always manage, surely its exponents are worth a quick namecheck for a job well done.

Aren’t they?

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