|Shutdown and Demolition (1974 - 2010)|
Fletcher and Nixon with Shuttle Model
NASA’s budget had been declining steadily since its peak in 1965. During Apollo’s final years from 1969 to 1972 there was intense debate in Washington regarding two costly NASA programs: the proposed space shuttle and the existing NERVA rocket. The flight-testing phase of NERVA had been cancelled years before, and the timetable for the anticipated missions to Mars slipped indefinitely into the future. In the end, the shuttle was approved, and NERVA was be omitted from NASA’s fiscal year 1973 budget. The cancellation, along with other budget restrictions, resulted in the closure of Plum Brook Station. For several years the B-1 and B-3 test stands were mothballed, but they were soon left to deteriorate.
Plum Brook Closure press release (1973) (PDF, 48.6KB)
Returning to Work
Neither the Atomic Energy Commission nor NASA Lewis had been given any indication of the NERVA cancellation until the budget was officially announced on January 5, 1973. It was 1 year to the day after the approval of the shuttle and just 17 days after the splashdown of the final Apollo mission. Lewis Director Bruce Lundin personally told the staff that Plum Brook Station would be closed down. The reactor would be first, and the other facilities would follow by fiscal year 1974. Over the next 18 months the staff was reduced from 600 to 54. By the mid-1970s, there were only about a half dozen personnel at Plum Brook Station.
B-1 had completed its last test in July 1969, but B-3, which was in the midst of its Centaur Standard Shroud tests when the shutdown announcement was made, would be among the last sites to be mothballed. An End Condition Statement report was issued for each facility stating what steps had been taken to deactivate the various systems. Steps included deenergizing electrical systems, deactivating boilers, shutting down gas systems, depressurizing air service, etc. Technically the mothballed test stands could be reactivated within 3 months. The structures were grouped into three categories to prioritize their readiness for reactivation with Readiness Category 1 being the most important. B-1 and B-3 were listed as Readiness Category 2.
Lundin Shutdown Speech (1973) (PDF, 33.8KB)
NASA Slashes Plum Brook (1973) (PDF, 305KB)
Plum Brook Phased Down (1974) (PDF, 702KB)
B-3 Stand in 2007
Continental Aircraft Engine (Teledyne) in nearby Toledo, Ohio was interested in using B-3 or B-1 as a vertical-takeoff-and-landing engine test stand. NASA felt that this would change the nature of the facility and not fully optimize its capabilities. NASA suggested using the facilities to test turbopump systems for the electric power industry, as a fluidized bed combustor, for turbine research, for coal gasification, or for fuel oil cracking. Pratt & Whitney and the Air Force suggested using B-1 for high-powered laser work.
In the mid-1970s NASA decided not to keep all the facilities in standby condition. Those not preserved were cannibalized for research and test equipment, but the overall structure and systems remained in place. B-1 was initially placed in Readiness Category 2, but its Pump and Shop Building was placed in Readiness Category 1. In December 1977, the B-1 freight elevator was removed for NASA’s new Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. In January 1978 B-1’s 300-foot liquid hydrogen vacuum-jacketed transfer line was removed for a NASA Langley Research Center hydrogen spill test conducted by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the China Lake Naval Facility. In 1982 the B-1 and B-3 test stands were demoted to Readiness Category 3.
Potential Use of Plum Brook Facilities (1973) (PDF, 2.33MB)
Potential Programs for Plum Brook (1973) (PDF, 1.41MB)
Plum Brook Station Review (1976) (PDF, 25.5MB)
NASA Glenn’s Facilities Division planned and carried out the demolition of the B-1 and B-3 test stands. The Pinnacle Construction & Development Group was hired to complete the task. Pinnacle subcontracted with Brandenburg Industrial Service Company to perform the actual demolition. These companies also managed the containment and disposal of the waste materials.
All of the main systems had been disconnected in the 1970s, but the site still required significant planning and selective demolition work. The base of each test stand was structurally weakened so that they would collapse onto their sides. On September 8, 2010, the B-1 test stand was brought down. Two weeks later, the B-3 test stand was demolished. The wreckage was scrapped, the infrastructure materials were recycled, and the site was restored by grading the soil and planting grass.