Didcot power station at dusk: the last smoke
Didcot power station at dusk: the last smoke

 

Whether loved or loathed, it can’t be denied that Didcot power station is one of south Oxfordshire's iconic feature. The main chimney which is 200m tall and the six cooling towers (99m tall) can be seen from great distances in this relatively flat region.

However the power station has been flagged by environmental organisations as one of the ten most polluting power plant in the UK. The earlier section (A) of the station burned mostly pulverised coal, although experiments have been conducted to incorporate other fuels. Following the large combustion plant directive – which aims at limiting pollution from large plants regarding sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and dust – the station ceased operation in 2013, after 45 years of existence.

It is interesting to note that contrarily to the appearances the large plume coming from the wide towers isn't dangerous at all: it is simply water vapour from the cooling of the hot water used for the electricity generation (which needs to be cooled before being sent back to the environment). The pollution comes from the much narrower and taller chimneys, which reject the exhaust from the combustion. This is usually much less visible in normal weather condition.

This photo was taken during the last winter before the shutdown, as a memory of this iconic sight. The low sun and the cold air highlighted the plume, helping to produce this dramatic picture. Three of the cooling towers will be destroyed later this month, and the remaining structures next year.

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