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OuR Really Big Project

September 19, 2005




Dear Families and Friends,


Of course I hadn't spent a day flying and waiting in airports just to do a quick tour of Rauma, "the largest area of wooden houses in the Nordic countries." We were here to visit the building of the largest nuclear unit in the Nordic - or any other - countries as well. Olkiluoto Unit 3 is our company's project and will be the largest in the world when it operates four years from now. In the last 35 years, I've spent considerable time in and around nuclear facilities and this one is pretty impressive, even in its current state.

We started off the day, after our tour of Rauma, with a meeting. As meetings go, it was interesting enough, but meetings can be anywhere. We needed to see and touch what we had been talking about.


After this, we donned safety shoes and vests and headed for "the hole". Along the way, we walked past the fiberglass pipes that will carry cooling water from sea. These didn't seem so big to me, but then I realized that the water they use here is much colder than that used in the southern U.S. or Brazilian plants I had last worked on.

We walked over to the edge of the hole that had been blasted out of the Finnish granite. Someone counted a dozen cranes standing guard over the construction.

Inside, there was a florescent army putting the final touches on thousands of tons of steel that would soon be buried in concrete. A few days after this picture, the crew would start pouring, 24-hours-a-day, for six days on what has to be one of the largest concrete pours in the world this year.

Down below, the reinforcing steel that had appeared lacy from above, took on it's normal, intimidating look and feel. This forest will continue to grow, layer by layer, for another couple years.

Below the massive network of steel bars is an annular room where even more reinforcing wires will be anchored. By the time construction is over, the main building housing the reactor will be able to withstand internal pressure comparable to a heavy truck tire. It will be surround by yet another building that can withstand the impact of a large aircraft.


Climbing out from underneath, we pass this mechanical dinosaur grazing away on the granite. It was just a minor side show, but it gave scale to the overall excavation job. On my desk, I now have a chip of the sparkly gray and black stone.


The king of the cranes towers over the hole. The machine and the company are called Mammoet. This mammoth can lift 1,600 tons and will be used to place unwieldy pieces, such as the steel containment liner behind it, into the hole. Later placements will be not into a hole but up and over the buildings that will grow higher and higher over the next many months.


Somehow, the sight of this normal, human-sized problem was reassuring. Everybody has had a flat tire and the workers on this massive endeavor are no different. The drum was still turning, as if it still held concrete slowly turning solid while waiting for a tire change. Some days are like that. I wonder if it will be here next month when I return.


So, that's it. A big place, but one that serves as a model for my (tiny) construction back home in Pommersfelden. Or, is it the other way around?

Keep building.

John T.


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