Figure One

Science. Communication. Community.

So Long, SONGS?

How do you scrap an entire nuclear power plant?  Step One: auction off the stuff that’s not glowing. Then what?

By Rebecca Widiss

Last week, the ill-fated San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) had a massive 3-day auction.  For those who couldn’t attend, perusing the auction’s online catalogue is itself an experience.  Part estate sale, part engineering expo, the catalogue offers an endless glimpse into everyday life at a nuclear power plant.  There’s no sense trying to recreate the catalogue’s magnitude, but here is a sampling of its quiet, intriguing beauty. (Equipment names, closing bid prices, and notes below.)


All images from the SONGS online auction catalogue.

Row 1:

  • Lot 732 | $250 | Dump Hopper | classic trash receptacle
  • Lot 4404 | $50,000 | Thermal Engineering International Turbine Plant Cooling Water Exchanger | used to expel heat, maintaining critical equipment and plant temperature profiles
  • Lot 4703 | $50 | Heavy Duty Acorn Table | useful in welding

Row 2:

  • Lot 257 | $550 | Dust Collector | filters dust that poses a combustion hazard
  • Lot 3006 | no closing bid | Assorted Ashcroft Pressure Test Gauges | the name says it all
  • Lot 2261 | $300 | 67″ Magnet | no idea, but I want one!

Row 3:

  • Lot 4022 | $400 | Set of Gauge Blocks | used to produce precision lengths
  • Lot 4644 |  $375 | Nuclear Power Outfitters Lead Blankets | draped over power plant architecture as a radiation shield
  • Lot 4158 | No bid | Shimpo Model Digital Stroboscope | used to study stresses on machinery in motion

The (ex)-exhibition designer in me can’t help thinking what fun it would be to put together a museum exhibit starring such equipment. Could SONGS itself become a museum?  Back when I was a college kid, I lucked into touring my neighborhood nuclear power plant, Duane Arnold. It was an incredible experience.  And there’s at least tangential precedent here.  Minneapolis has its fantastic Flour Mill Museum. And Mexico has Horno3, a steel foundry-turned-science-center.  I don’t know would take to make SONGS safe for the masses.  But what a bright silver lining it would be if some portion of SONGS (or its equipment) lived on as a one-of-a-kind educational resource.



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This entry was posted on April 3, 2014 by in Art, Physics, Uncategorized.
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