Inside the Forgotten Nuclear Plant [PHOTOS]
This pale sea-green plant towers over the North Fork of Long Island, though it was never used to generate electricity (beyond a few tests). In the late sixties it seemed a good idea to construct a nuclear plant on a island just a few miles from the world biggest metropolis, but by the late seventies, after billions had been spent to build the plant, protests and eventually state intervention caused Shoreham to be boarded up and abandoned. It’s since been decommissioned, all radioactive materials and core reactor parts have been removed. It’s been tested extensively for any leftover radiation, and just left there while the region debates a new plan for the land. But, while all of this happens, the plant picks up more dust.
It is truly the plant time forgot. My expectation was I would see a sophisticated, although empty, facility, full of computers and digital displays, polished steel and sterile white walls. But this will built well before digital was norm, and I guess yellow was sterile enough back then.
The control room looked like a set, the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise (the television version), full of small plastic bulbs and buttons. Plastic squares, like Scrabble tiles, lined the walls with phrases like “Main Gen Pilot Wire Trouble” stamped on them and arranged in geometric patterns. Levers looked like they belonged on vintage stoves. In fact, it was the kitchen of the sixties become a nuclear power plant with rubberized dials and red ink staining the meters.
Some of the lights were held together by duct tape. Red light guards were cracked. The doors browned at their edges. Pipes ran everywhere. And the generator room looked like a dry dock, with removable walls fit together like puzzle pieces to shield workers from radiation.
The whole plant was dark and rusted, metal valves turned brown, old pieces of the generator laid on the floor, even the reactor, with its twelve-foot-thick walls and bank vault door guarding its entrance, was speckled with rust and dirt.
One of the men giving the tour told me it was like those National Geographic shows, where they explain how the earth would reclaim our man-made wonders if our species ever went extinct. Shoreham is being reclaimed by emptiness.
I could go one about the little details of the trip, the plant is both science museum and art museum with all of its retro details. But I’ll save some for the video I’m making on the plant for Long Island Business News, which I’ll share here when it is complete. I did most of the shooting on a video camera, but I did manage to get a few artsy shots of the plant for myself which I’ll share below. The lighting inside the place was dim and yellow, so many of the shots came out blurry because my little Canon just isn’t equipped for low-light conditions. But I used that to the advantage of the shots, especially when I was walking down the metal stairs of the plant. I don’t mind so much blurry photos, they accent shape and color while creating a distance between the viewer and the image. That leaves the viewer to make up that distance with his mind.