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Trio aim to shake up power station demolition

Arcadis has joined with two specialist contractors, Alford Technologies and AR Demolition, to launch a new entrant into the UK’s power station demolition market.

The collaboration, dubbed Atom, could see Arcadis act as a principal contractor on power station decommissioning and demolition projects.

The consultant would then draw on the expertise of Alford and AR to carry out the specialised demolition elements of the programme using a new method that requires little, if any, pre-weakening of structures, in a huge shift from how explosive demolition is currently undertaken.

Alford’s technique, to be used as part of Atom’s proposition, would see no cutting by hand of any part of the building that is integral to its structure, with linear cutting charges instead carrying out the crucial cuts at the very end of the process, and gravity bringing the building down.

Remote demolition techniques demonstrated at Didcot Power Station will act as the “ultimate failsafe” in the event of a ‘stand-up’ – where a structure does not collapse as expected – with no person ever needing to enter the building.

Traditional demolition techniques commonly see cuts to structural supports made by hand, with explosives used to ‘kick’ the ‘legs’ in a certain direction. Current practice in the event of a stand-up often sees a person enter a structure to inspect and replace explosive charges for a second attempt.

While Atom has not yet won any contracts, the team is ready to take the proposition to market and has had early-stage discussions with a number of power generation clients.

The three parties in the venture are set to sign a memorandum of understanding shortly, with a view to setting up a new company under the Atom name in the future.

Atom is “unlikely” to be on site within the next 12 months, according to AR managing director Richard Dolman.

The team is proposing using Alford Technologies’ patented explosive charges, including linear cutting charges, alongside laser scanning, surveys and explosives modelling, to demolish large structures.

AR Demolition will bring extensive experience of carrying out complex demolition projects, while Arcadis will contribute planning, design and remediation expertise.

The team said it would be able to carry out a turnkey power station demolition project, with Atom taking on a site for planning, decommissioning, demolition and remediation – then either handing it back ready to be sold for development, or even overseeing that development itself.

Alford Technologies was contracted by RWE to carry out the blowdown of the remaining structure of the boiler house that collapsed at Didcot Power Station in February 2016, which it did entirely remotely.

The firm believed its methods could be used to make explosive demolition safer, and initially sought out AR Demolition as a partner to achieve this.

Mr Dolman said: “The Eureka moment’s happened [with the remote demolition at Didcot]. We like to do things in a better way if it’s available – or if it’s not, we’ll develop it – and Alford and Arcadis have clearly got a passion for the same thing.”

Arcadis associate technical director Dave Atkinson said power stations were “complex” to demolish.

“The clients who own these sites aren’t in the business of decommissioning them – they’re looking for partners to give them some certainty and assurance. With these technologies and techniques, Atom provides that certainty.”

The cause of the Didcot boiler house collapse is still being investigated by the Health & Safety Executive and Thames Valley Police.

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