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Published: April 23rd 2006
In the early morning hours of 21 May 2006, the cooling tower of the Trojan Nuclear Plant is scheduled to be demolished by Controlled Demolition, Inc. This is the same company that imploded the Seattle Superdome in 2000. I write about this impending event not to spark any sort of environmental debate, but rather to reflect on the role Trojan had as a symbol associated with the small town I grew up in: Rainier, Oregon.
Last fall, when I first heard that PGE was planning on having the tower demolished, I was surprised. Trojan had closed nearly 20 years early in January 1993. I graduated from high school a few months later and left Oregon so attend college in another state. Five years later, my parents retired and relocated to Idaho, so I hadn’t realized that PGE has been working on decommissioning the plant since 1996. The early closure had a sizeable economic impact on our community, but I always thought even in dormancy the tower would stand as a silent sentinel along the river.
Growing up in Rainier, I didn’t think much about Trojan or what it may symbolize to other people. It was a part of my
known environment, and consequently I thought it had always been there. My parents were teachers in the local school district, as were the parents of four of my classmates. Other classmates’ parents were loggers, longshoremen, or worked for one of the local paper and pulp mills along the river. Some worked at Trojan, just another fact in the fabric of my childhood. In the past, my father had been a tour guide there during the summer.
There I participated in bikeathons for cystic fibrosis, went to church picnics, and attended a friend’s wedding reception -- all at the park at the base of the Trojan cooling tower. PGE owns over 600 acres along the Columbia River, and they established a park with trails and bike paths around some of the surrounding wetlands. The location of the park didn’t strike me as odd or out of place until many years later. It was just another part of the community.
PGE is encouraging curious onlookers to watch the implosion from their television screens. I don’t know if the cameras can do it justice, or if I can resist watching the fall of the tower from across the river in Washington. But I do know it marks the end of another era in Rainier’s history.
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