The "Queen Mary" Comes Down at SONGS

This week marked the end of an era for SONGS with the final demolition of what was affectionately known as the Queen Mary, the two top levels of the four-story AWS office complex that reminded folks of the famous ship’s upper decks. The AWS housed many critical work groups at SONGS, as well as the cafeteria, huge vaults for important documents, drawings and procedures and a rooftop tent for large employee meetings. It’s now being crushed, sorted and hauled out via rail cars and trucks. In fact, 12 more rail cars were just delivered to the site to help clear the way for more equipment lay down areas and space.

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“Watching each of my previous offices go away, little by little, north to south, was hard,” shared Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation Manager Jason Janke. A former senior reactor operator and shift manager with more than 38 years at SONGS, Janke spent a great deal of time traversing the length of plant from the K buildings to the control room to the Queen Mary. Only the control room remains, for now.

More than 17 structures have been demolished on site thus far—almost one third of the 62 slated for removal during the 8-year dismantlement phase of decommissioning. This triggers emotions from many, especially those who have spent most of their careers at SONGS.

“I am feeling nostalgic, remembering all the good people we had working with us over the years, bringing my kids to work and their excitement, the many celebrations, and the great cafeteria staff,” reminisced Sandy Sewell, Manager of Radiation Protection and a 39 year veteran of SONGS. “Those were the good old days.”

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The Team Behind the AWS Demolition

From the start to the finish, the team responsible for the AWS building demolition has been a well-oiled machine. It has to be—with the work site located at one of the busiest centers of the plant, on the road leading into the main plant site for both pedestrians and vehicles, flanked by an active rail spur loaded with cars, and not to mention the constant streams of workers and visitors admiring the excavators at work.

“My congratulations to the entire team for their excellent work and safety behaviors, especially given the proximity of this heavy demolition work to nearly everyone at the plant,” said Vince Bilovsky, SCE Director of Decommissioning. “This commitment to teamwork and clear communication in the field is exactly the type of work that ensures everyone goes home safely every day.”

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Everything has been highly coordinated, from gutting the building to knocking down the walls, sorting the waste to providing dust mitigation, carried out by Brandenburg, a contractor to SONGS DecommissioningSolutions, which handles the overall dismantlement project.

“The team’s housekeeping skills were remarkable,” shared SCE Decommissioning Oversight Specialist Frank Pavia. “Brandenburg was simultaneously demolishing the structure and clearing the area. You would think chaos, and instead it was highly orchestrated with a strong safety focus.”

When all is said and done, the demolition of the AWS structure will yield:

  • 28,000 tons of crushed concrete (enough to fill 280 railcars)
  • 3,000 tons of trash debris (about 170 truckloads)
  • 1,360 tons of recyclable steel scrap and rebar (about 80 truckloads)

All of the material is destined for locations outside of California.

Once the AWS footprint is completely removed, SDS will expand the rail spur to facilitate more rail traffic and off-site shipments.

“Seeing the AWS building hollowed and flat was a crisp reminder that everything must have an end point,” said Jeff Carey, Corrective Action Program Manager with more than 30 years at SONGS and in the industry. “We all get used to the fact that we build our livelihood on the existence and operation of the plant, but the sad fact is that these places are built to, ultimately, be torn down.”

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