Abandoned: 10 Unfinished Nuclear Power Stations Around the World

The world's unfinished nuclear power stations (Abandoned: the world’s unfinished nuclear power stations)

There can’t be any other source of energy as consistently controversial as nuclear. A string of high-profile accidents and disasters, from Windscale and Chernobyl to Fukushima, has led to mass protests and public distrust. While some still regard nuclear energy as the cleanest alternative to fossil fuels, many plants have been closed, or never even completed. Across the world, their silent ruins still stand; a visual testament to mankind’s uneasy relationship with nuclear energy. Here are 10 unfinished nuclear power stations situated from Europe to Southeast Asia, Australia and North America.

Read Also: 10 Haunting Abandoned Power Plants of the World

Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, Philippines

The unfinished Bataan Nuclear Power Plant near Manila, in the Philippines (Image: Jiru27)

All things considered, it is perhaps for the best that Bataan never went online. Located 62 miles west of Manila, the plant began construction in 1976 as an answer to the damage that the 1973 Oil Crisis had inflicted on the oil-dependent Philippines. Despite a budget of over $1 billion, its building was flawed from the get-go. A 1979 investigation found over 4,000 defects. Investigators pointed out that it had been built on a major fault-line and close to the Mount Pinatubo volcano.

Despite these warnings, construction continued right up until the Filipino dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, was overthrown in 1986. Even then, it took the widely-publicised Chernobyl disaster to shut down work completely. Fast forward over 30 years, and Bataan’s unfinished nuclear power station remains in a twilight state: essentially finished, but too unsafe to ever be put into operation.

Bellefonte Nuclear Generating Station, USA

The unfinished Bellefonte Nuclear Generating Station (Image: Tennessee Valley Authority)

The tale of Alabama’s unfinished nuclear generating station at Bellefonte is one of sunny optimism quickly being swamped beneath cynicism, delays, and the harsh realities of operating a nuclear power facility. At the time construction began, in 1974, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) had effectively no experience in running a nuclear reactor, let alone four. But this was the aftermath of the Oil Crisis, so they dutifully marched on – right into a crisis.

The Three Mile Island accident in 1979 proved highly damaging for proponents of nuclear power. The accidental release of a large cloud of radioactive gas turned public opinion against nuclear, damaging the popularity of sites like Bellefonte and other facilities. By the time the 1980s rolled round, construction costs were mounting up alongside public opposition and, in 1983, it was cancelled. While TVA has since tried to restart construction a couple of times and recoup its investment, Bellefonte today is effectively dead.

Juragua Nuclear Power Plant, Cuba

The unfinished Juragua Nuclear Power Plant in Cuba (Image: David Grant)

Just as world events, such as the Oil Crisis, sparked a spate of reactor building, so too did they sometimes end a country’s investment in nuclear power. For the Juragua reactor in Cuba, the world event that hit it couldn’t have been bigger. The collapse of the Soviet Union suddenly left a giant hole in the economically-dependant country’s finances that couldn’t be filled domestically. Without Russian investment, Juragua could not be built.

For some, this was a good thing. Juragua is less than 100 miles from Florida, and just as close to parts of Central America. A 2000 report into the reactor found it was 15 times more likely to have an accident than a similar plant in the United States, raising the possibility of America being soaked with radiation in event of a meltdown. That same year, Russia and Cuba agreed to abandon the project, leaving the unfinished nuclear power station at Juragua to fall into ruin.

Jervis Bay Nuclear Power Plant (Proposed), Australia

Site of the unbuilt Jervis Bay Nuclear Power Plant in New South Wales, Australia (Image: Hamiltonstone)

If you go looking for Jervis Bay Nuclear Plant on the idyllic south coast of New South Wales, Australia, prepare to be disappointed. The site itself is little more than a collection of bushes surrounded by scrubland, with nary a cooling tower in sight. That’s because, unlike most in this article, the unbuilt nuclear plant never got beyond the planning stage. First proposed in 1969, it was abandoned in 1971, with only some preliminary concrete footings built to show for it.

Nonetheless, Jervis Bay remains significant. Why? Because, to date, it is the only serious proposal ever considered for a nuclear power plant in the whole of Australia. For a country with the world’s third largest deposits of uranium this may seem surprising, but then you remember that Australia also has huge coal and natural gas reserves to call on instead. For now, it seems Jervis Bay will remain the closest Australia has to nuclear power station.

Lemóniz Nuclear Power Plant, Spain

Lemóniz Nuclear Power Plant (Image: Jose A. Solis)

While many nuclear plants have attracted protests, Lemóniz nuclear plant in Spain’s Basque country caught the attention of ETA, the Basque separatist organisation that shot to infamy by assassinating the Prime Minister Luis Carrero Blanco in 1973. When plans for Lemóniz were announced in 1977, ETA announced that it would disrupt building at all costs – a promise that it would soon follow through on.

For the next six years, the unfinished nuclear power station was the site of shootings, bombings and kidnappings that killed several people and injured many more. ETA even assassinated two chief engineers on the project, halting work for months on end. Construction was halted in 1982, and work on the Lemóniz plant was abandoned altogether in 1983, when the government in Madrid blocked all new nuclear plants across the country. The facility was also strongly opposed by unarmed anti-nuclear campaigners. Today, it stands empty and unfinished, an unintentional memorial to all who were killed during its construction.

Phipps Bend Nuclear Power Plant, USA

The unfinished Phipps Bend Nuclear Power Plant in Tennessee, USA (Image: Cliffton.reed)

At the same time that Tennessee Valley Authority was struggling to bring its Bellefonte Nuclear Generating Station online (see above), it was also experiencing similar difficulties at Phipps Bend, TN. Yet another unfinished nuclear power station that was started in the 1970s, alongside its cousin in Alabama, Phipps Bend remained viable even after the literal and figurative fallout from Three Mile Island. As late as 1981, TVA was pushing to finish the job. Then it all fell apart. Not long after the Bellefonte plant was cancelled, Phipps Bend went the same way, leaving an eerie concrete ruin in its wake.

Abandoned SNR-300, Germany

The unfinished nuclear power plant SNR-300 in Germany, now a theme park called Kernwasser Wunderland

SNR-300 in Germany probably came closer to completion than any other unfinished nuclear power station documented here. In fact, it was completed. It was just never taken online; incredible when you consider it cost 7 billion Deutsche Mark to build. The plant used highly-experimental technology and was finished just as the Chernobyl disaster unfolded. The mass-protests, worries from government, and daily news updates of disaster in Ukraine and Belarus helped cool enthusiasm on the project. By 1991, SNR-300 was offline permanently.

Abandoned cooling tower turned into a climbing wall at Wunderland Kalkar in Germany (Image: Koetjuh)

Yet this strange story doesn’t quite stop there. In 1995 Dutch investor Hennie van der Most bought the inactive nuclear energy facility for 2.5 million euros and turned it into a theme park – a seemingly unworkable plan that, incredibly, worked. Wunderland Kalkar now receives some 600,000 visitors a year. You can even go on rides inside the old nuclear reactor, and an abandoned cooling tower (above) is now a climbing wall.

Stendal Nuclear Power Plant, Germany

The ruined reactor building of the never completed Stendal Nuclear Power Plant in Germany (Image: Harald Rossa)

While West Germany was going through its nuclear plant drama, East Germany (GDR) was suffering its own. Outside the city of Arneburg, the socialist authorities were busy building what was set to be the biggest nuclear plant in either German state. Building began in 1983, but history would soon step in and construction of the power station was put on hold after German reunification.

Concerns were raised over the integrity of the Soviet design and the unfinished Stendal Nuclear Power Plant was completely abandoned by 1991. Largely demolished by 1998, its ruins stand on the edge of what is now a modern industrial estate.

Żarnowiec Nuclear Power Plant, Poland

Abandoned Żarnowiec Nuclear Power Plant (Image: Michał Kotas)

Near the chilly shores of the Baltic Sea, about 50 km from the hip, gritty port city of Gdansk, lies this monument to Poland’s nuclear energy dreams. Started in 1982, when Poland was still under communism, the unfinished nuclear power station on Lake Żarnowiec suffered the same fate as many others around this time. After the utter devastation spread by the Chernobyl disaster, locals understandably began a series of protests.

The unfinished nuclear power plant near Lake Żarnowiec in Poland (Image: Piotr Łukaszewski)

While protests alone weren’t enough to stop the facility being built, Poland around this time was also in a state of transition. As early as June 1989, the nation had thrown off the shackles of communism, and the new government was anxious to avoid a potential nuclear disaster on its doorstop. Completion of Żarnowiec was put to a referendum in the Gdansk region, and 86.1 per cent came out against. The unfinished nuclear power station was abandoned, joining other unfinished Soviet nuclear designs in Europe.

Hartsville Nuclear Plant, USA

The abandoned Hartsville Nuclear Plant site in Tennessee (Image: Brian Stansberry)

And so we return one last time to Tennessee, and to another aborted TVA nuclear power (the federally owned corporation ultimately completed five of 17 planned reactors). Situated alongside the great, rolling waters of the Cumberland River, the Hartsville plant began construction in 1975, anticipating great energy demand in the 1980s. But following the cancellation of other reactors, the demonstrations triggered by Three Mile Island, and other factors, Hartsville was mothballed. Construction of its reactors had been cancelled by late August 1984.

Today, the unfinished Hartsville plant is at least set to be a good deal livelier than many shown in this article. Plans are in place to convert over 500 acres of the abandoned nuclear power station site into an industrial park as a home to businesses.

Related: The Abandoned Crimean Atomic Energy Station


About the author: Morris M




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