Heritage and nuclear power plant recycling

Nuclear power plants are current testimonies to the history of technology and industry. Many of which are still in use today, while we are already preparing for the end of this type of energy generation. All these plants in Europe are to be decommissioned in the next decades. Over 110 commercial reactors will belong to a completed historical epoch. Accordingly to today’s plans, they will all face a complex decontamination process, followed by demolition.

With an increasing number of nuclear facilities getting to the age of dismantling, the question of the reuse and redevelopment is attracting strong interest. The question of preserving the heritage is becoming also a consideration. And the answer includes a mix of architectural, technological and regulatory feasibility, economic, landscape and environmental aspects and local stakeholder’s expectations.

In the beginning, nuclear power was a visionary technology. Today, the testimonial value of these large-scale plants has to be re-defined with regard to the history, engineering and construction, to economic and political history and, last but not least, to social and environmental values. The question is how to reuse these facilities in the near future. There are many examples of buildings and sites turning from nuclear uses to another ones (industrial, healthcare, research, alternative energy production, etc). The publication of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on “Redevelopment and Reuse of Nuclear Facilities and Sites, Case Studies and Lessons Learnt” provide already a number useful references and architectural / urban strategies of what can be done by architects, landscapers and engineers.

With this approach, nuclear power plants in Europe are today more than just obsolete and problematic buildings. Many of them can be adapted for new purposes, taking advantage of the large amount of concrete and steel structures. We propose the study of recycling strategies for architecture, industry and health. Also, reconstructing landmarks and collective memories for social renewal once their useful lives are over. Reusing strategies for industrial heritage as landscape transformation are proposed in this study.

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