Elk River demolition nearly complete

Two-and-a-half years after the retirement of the Elk River Energy Recovery Station, the power plant site now resembles how it likely looked a century ago.

The Elk River Energy Recovery Station began operations in the early 1950s using coal as the fuel source. In the early 1960s, the site hosted a federal nuclear reactor, which was fully decommissioned by the government in the early 1970s. The project was converted to produce electricity using refuse-derived fuel in the 1980s.

Great River Energy staff and specialized crews are wrapping up a project that included long periods dedicated to decommissioning, demolition and site restoration.

Situated within a hillside above the Mississippi River and U.S. Highway 10 and below a heavily trafficked railroad and several other structures, the project was subject to several unique requirements and challenges.

“It was important that this project resulted in a safe and stable site, both from a structural and environmental perspective,” said Great River Energy Environmental Administrator Cassie Johnston. “We worked with a number of county, state and federal agencies to keep this project moving forward.”

Crews spent much of 2021 removing underground structures, disposing of building materials and landscaping. The project site has been graded to match the surrounding topography and seeded with native plantings. A new fenced, paved area at the top of the hill is being used to store materials and equipment.

The site of the former power plant now resembles how it likely looked a century ago after undergoing decommissioning and demolition.

Despite completing the bulk of the work amid a global pandemic, the project was a success.

“The teams in environmental services and power supply did a great job keeping the project safe, on schedule and under budget,” said Great River Energy Director of Resource Recovery and Development Tim Steinbeck.

This is the second power plant Great River Energy has decommissioned and demolished, following a similar effort upon the 2016 retirement of Stanton Station.

“Elk River Energy Recovery Station and Stanton Station both served our members well for decades,” said Great River Energy Vice President and Chief Power Supply Officer Jon Brekke. “When we make the difficult decision to retire a resource, we take care to safely restore the sites to a natural state.”