Satsop Nuclear Power Plant – Elma, Washington - Atlas Obscura
Unusual adventures and hidden discoveries. Explore our 2018 trips now »

Elma, Washington

Satsop Nuclear Power Plant

From overly ambitious (and eventually abandoned) atomic dream to bustling office park. 

Billed as the ultimate reuse story, the Satsop Business Park has successfully transformed from an almost-finished nuclear power plant to an industrial center, technology campus, and workforce training center.

In the 1970s, Satsop was part of one of the most ambitious nuclear power plant construction projects in the U.S., at least until the Washington Public Power Supply System (WPPSS), or as some say “Whoops,” defaulted on 2.25 billion dollars in bonds. The project was plagued with cost overruns, and construction stopped in early 1982 leaving the plant unfinished but more than half complete, with monstrous cooling towers and mostly-complete reactor containment domes. The much-publicized Three Mile Island nuclear accident in 1979 didn’t help public relations efforts either. As the decade drew to a close, the project was mired in lawsuits that would last for years. To shed its bad image, WPPSS changed its name to Energy Northwest in 1998.

The plant, which had been built to withstand a massive earthquake, was left standing. Seeing the potential of the unfinished site, area leaders formed the Grays Harbor Public Development Authority to transition the plant into a business park. In 2013, it handed over ownership to the Port of Grays Harbor, which now manages the community-owned facility. Reuse has brought an eclectic mix of business and activity to the campus, ranging from a world-class acoustical lab to film shoots to an impressive tunnel training site used by the City of Seattle Fire Department.

Best of all, one can experience the nuclear setting without the worry of previous safety violations!

Know Before You Go

Latitude / Longitude: 46.96166 -123.46869