Unfinished nuclear heating plant

Gorky heat supply nuclear plant is one of the two HSNPs in this country whose construction got under way in the early 1980s but was never completed due to a number of reasons, including public outcry and, naturally, the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The building wasn’t finished, the reactor system wasn’t assembled, and nobody had even started thinking about bringing in the fuel by that point.

This is why a visit to the site is absolutely safe in terms of radioactive contamination.

However, it never hurts be sensible about it, because we actually managed to find something radioactive.

In my opinion, the public outcry was not so much a primary reason for the decision to stop the construction as was the fact that they simply ran out of money, which was a very common case for thousands of unfinished objects across Russia and the former Soviet republics.

An argument in favor of this is that the construction was very active during the post-Chernobyl years (judging by the multiple inscriptions left by the workers), and part of the office and lab spaces in the station were actually operational up to the early 1990s (according to the posters and calendars on the walls).

At first, the seemingly endless hallways actually look like those in a partially completed building: the construction of some parts of the complex was stopped at a stage far from final.

Nevertheless, almost from the beginning you start coming across protective doors — dozens of them, varying from small hatches to full size massive hermetic doors.

Some of the rooms greet the visitor with complete emptiness or a few lonely pipes stacked somewhere in the corners, while others are stowed full

Every door seems to open into a new location, but suddenly a feeling of deja vu appears. Did we really return to the starting point or is it just an illusion?

Once again, we see a spacious hall full of rusty pipes, glass-cloth, shiny stainless steel tanks and latches

A sudden bright spot against the dull background of grey and rusty hallways

Once again the shine of stainless steel

Multiple hallways that awaken thoughts of a giant boiler facility (which is actually true) lead to the part of the complex that had already been put into operation at the time the project was aborted

And then there are dozens of rooms of various purpose, from utility rooms and offices to workshops, labs and halls with endless rows of torn apart computer racks.

There are posters typical of that period on the walls, dried flowers on the windowsills, postcards and propaganda leaflets under your feet.

Then, after passing some posters informing about the utility and safety of the station, we get to its central hub.

The reactor hall is a typical construction site: it looks like something complex and bulky was to be assembled here, but the work was halted at the stage where various parts of the reactor and heating systems were scattered chaotically about the hall.

Without sufficient knowledge of the design of this particular system it is quite hard to determine what exactly all these things are, what is their purpose and how they are all connected to each other

However, there a a few convenient observation decks here that allow to sweep the eyes and the ray of the flashlight across all the available space

Some of the parts are still wrapped up — covered with plastic or tarp, they attract even more attention than if they were just lying about

The object that visitors often mistake for the reactor itself is nothing but a lid that is resting upon a support that is perfectly normal for a construction site despite its weird look (you can approach it from the bottom side and see that)

While some of the structures look like they go deep into the ground, others, on the opposite, are above the ground level.

But who actually knows where ground level is? Inside the station with all its countless ladders and stairs (it seems that almost all of them go down) one can totally lose their understanding of space and surrender to the imagination, fancying that all this is located below the ground…

The morning is coming fast, and it would be better to leave the complex before dawn… And thus we leave the plant, not having found anything nuclear, but having had a blast of an experience!

But oh… wait! It looks like there is something here, in the basement

This is a so-called head of a Gammarid fault finder. It’s a steel container with a depleted uranium cylinder in the center (45 mm thick), where an iridium isotope is supposed to be placed.

This thing indicates quite a high radiation level, and touching it, and especially taking it home is not recommended

Gammarids (a more modern version of them) are still used during construction of such objects as power stations to scan various structures and welded seams for pre-emptively detecting out their defects

So, finally, completely satisfied and even having discovered “something radioactive”, but still with an intention to return, our group of urban explorers safely leaves Gorky nuclear heating station to the barking of the dogs and the guards and thanks each other for pleasant company.

Images by Lana Sator

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