Satsop Nuclear Plant – One of the filming locations of Transformers: Age of Extinction

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The Satsop Nuclear Plant is actually a collective name for two power plants known as Washington Nuclear Project No.3 and Washington Nuclear Project No.5, or by their shorter and easier to remember names, WNP-3 and WNP-5.

The staircase that leads to the top. Author: Greg Dunlap CC BY 2.0

The construction itself was initiated by the now Energy Northwest, back then the Washington Public Power Supply System, WPPSS, or as people preferred to call it, “Whoops”. And it was whoops indeed, for WPPSS brought one of the largest collapses in the financial sector and the second worst municipal bond default.

Satsop Nuclear Plant viewed from the air. Author: United States Geological Survey Public Domain

The WPPSS was officially formed in 1957 and it was the excessive dedication to the nuclear energy itself that brought all the chaos in the financial sector during the 1970s.

When it comes to the WNP-3 and WNP-5, the permit for their construction was given in 1973 and the construction process didn’t start until 1977.  As the numbers suggests, there were 5 power plants.

Different parts of the interior. Author: Dave Sizer CC BY 2.0

The construction of WNP-1, WNP-2 and WNP-4 was granted to some of the biggest civil engineering companies in the U.S., the Bechtel Corporation. WNP-3 and WNP-5 were appointed a different team. The construction process of these two power plants was supervised by the Electric Bond and Share Company, who incidentally also worked on the design of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

Looking up the tower. Author: Dave Sizer CC BY 2.0

The construction of WNP-3 was advancing by 2 percent every month. It was something that WPPSS was proud of. They may not have been so proud of the cost of construction. The calculation sort of derailed from the initial estimate of $4.1 billion ending with a $19.9 billion overspend, making a total price tag of $24 billion.

The interior of WNP-3. Author: Dave Sizer CC BY 2.0

WPPSS issued bonds in order to collect the funds for the construction of the power plants 3 and 5. And this is when the problems started to amass. WPPSS failed in their attempt to sell the bonds in order to gather the funds to complete the construction. Bonds worth nearly $2,860,000,000.

The bottom of one of the cooling towers. Author: Greg Dunlap CC BY 2.0

The solution was to delay the construction of WNP-3. At this point in time, the power plant was nearly 80 percent finished. The WNP-5 power plant project though was cancelled at this point (January 1982) being less than 20 percent finished.

The interior scraped of equipment. Author: Dave Sizer CC BY 2.0

The final summary was that out of the 5 power plants only one was ever made, WNP-2, which was finished and put to use and today is known as the Columbia Generating Station. WNP-3’s equipment was put aside awaiting better days when the demand for energy will justify its enormous costs.

The entrance leading inside the power plant. Author: Dave Sizer CC BY 2.0

Unfortunately, those days never came for the project was altogether terminated and the funds for preservation of WNP-3 were suspended in 1995. In 1999, the site’s ownership was given to Satsop Redevelopment Project.

With time many of the buildings found on site of WNP-3 were renovated to serve a different purpose than the original, however the cooling tower remains to this day, in a perfect state, as a souvenir of times when ambitions were so high.

The interior of a different tower. Author: Dave Sizer CC BY 2.0

The towers survived mainly because the cost of their demolition was nearing $100 million. But nonetheless, they still have served some purpose. For example, photographers are lured to them like a bee to a flower. Even movie directors are attracted to them, including Michael Bay, who chose this location for the filming of Transformers: Age of Extinction.

The towers clearly visible from the distance. Author:

This place is so popular that in 2013 filming rates were established. Today the power plant is part of the Satsop Business Park. The Port of Grays Harbor takes care of this transition.

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