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Didcot power station: Power cut as cooling towers demolished

BusinessDidcot power station: Power cut as cooling towers demolished

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Media captionThe moment Didcot power station cooling towers were demolished

Thousands of households lost electricity moments after a disused power station’s remaining cooling towers were demolished.

Didcot A’s 375ft (114.3m) high towers were brought down using explosive charges at 07:00 BST.

Moments later, witnesses said, a nearby electricity pole went up in flames.

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSE) initially denied the demolition was to blame, but said later the two were “probably linked”.

A spokesman said the firm was trying to establish the reason for the fault, which caused up to 49,000 homes to lose power until it was restored by 08:20.

  • The power station that inspired poetry

“An investigation is under way as to the cause of the incident and SSEN is working with all relevant authorities,” he added.

Crowds who had gathered early to watch the controlled blast said the pole – connected to an overhead power line – caught fire “within 10 seconds” of the detonation.

One witness said the blaze “started with a bit of smoke, then a huge bright blue light and lots of noise before turning bright orange”.

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Image caption

Onlookers saw an explosion (bottom left) as the towers fell

SSE said engineers were alerted to a fault in the Sutton Courtenay area, where the power station is, at 07:04.

There were multiple reports of households suddenly losing electricity.

While those who went to watch the demolition said the explosion had appeared to affect electrical cables in the surrounding area.

An exclusion zone was set up around the site of the former coal-fired power station, which was turned off in 2013 after 43 years in service.

Site owners RWE Power had warned onlookers not to attempt to view the demolition from close quarters.

The fall of the station’s northern towers came after the three southern towers were demolished in 2014.

RWE Power, which owns the site, said it had planned the demolition over several months with its contractor Brown and Mason and relevant local authorities.

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PA Media

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People rose early on Sunday to secure a good view of the demolition

Before the demolition, RWE project manager Tiernan Foley said: “For many people the demolition will mark a significant day for both Didcot and Oxfordshire.

“We would like to thank the local community for their support and all the people who have worked at the site.”

The power station’s gigantic, concrete towers in the heart of Midsomer Murders country have stood in stark contrast to their surroundings and have divided public opinion.

In 2003, Country Life readers voted the landmark Britain’s third worst eyesore, but others have found the structures to be a source of inspiration for poetry.

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Didcot A’s towers have been a major landmark for a generation

Didcot A was commissioned in 1964 by the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) before it was connected to the national grid in 1970.

The town’s railway line and proximity to the Thames also meant the location was right for the tonnes of coal and gallons of water the power station would require.

The 2,000 megawatt (MW) station operated until 2013, when RWE Power move to decommission it when new EU reduced emissions rules were brought in.

Owners RWE Npower had planned to clear the site by the end of 2017, but its plans were delayed when the site’s boiler house collapsed, killing four workers.

Ken Cresswell, 57, John Shaw, 61, Michael Collings, 53, and Christopher Huxtable, 34, died in the major incident in February 2016.

It took more than six months for the four men’s bodies to be recovered, prompting criticism from their families.

The power station’s 655ft (199.5m) chimney – one of the tallest structures in the UK – will be demolished in the autumn.

Didcot Power Station timeline

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Thames Valley Police

Image caption

The Didcot power station boiler house was set for demolition when it collapsed

1964 – Building starts

1970 – Didcot A begins commercial operation

1994 – Construction starts on Didcot B, a gas fired station

1997 – Didcot B begins commercial operation

2003 – Voted Britain’s third worst eyesore

2009 – Protestors climb chimney and stay there for two days

March 2013 – Didcot A closed

July 2014 – Three of its cooling towers are demolished

February 2016 – A major incident is declared after the boiler house collapses, and the body of worker Michael Collings is found

July 2016 – The remaining section of the boiler house is brought down using explosives

September 2016 – The bodies of Ken Cresswell, John Shaw, and Christopher Huxtable are recovered

December 2017 – An evidence file is passed to the Crown Prosecution Service by police

January 2018 – Thames Valley Police reveals it is considering manslaughter and gross negligence charges

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