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Marietta's nuclear power pipeline

March 15, 2011 - Jim Bartholow
With Japan's nuclear power plant troubles in the news, I'm reminded of the time in the 1970s when Marietta's Dravo factory on Westview Avenue and Gilman Avenue was a booming operation. That's because the Pittsburgh-based company employed scores of area plumbers and pipefitters who worked on Dravo's backlog of contracts for nuclear power plant construction projects.

Seemed like Dravo was regularly announcing new multi-million dollar contracts for work on a growing list of nuclear power plants in the U.S. and in foreign nations.The future looked bright for Dravo and the pipefitters.

In the early 70s there was a small band of protests against nuclear power across the U.S. But in the mid-70s, protests at the proposed Seabrook.N.H., nuclear power plant site seemed to gain a voice the a growing number of the population was listening to.

Then, in 1979, came Three Mile Island, the Pennsylvania nuclear power plant that failed. It caused a sudden drop in interest in nuclear power. It also caused cancellation of nearly all of the contracts Dravo held. A huge backlog in work disappeared. Dravo had to close its doors because of the change in attitude about nuclear power.

Dravo's old shop is now home to Ohio Valley Alloys on Westview Avenue. Dravo's old office is home Washington County Department of Job and Family Services. As for Marietta's pipefitter work force, some moved away. Others went to work for the new venture called Pioneer Pipe. Others have taken work as its available all over the eastern United States. But if you're new to the area and wonder why Marietta has such a concentration of plumbers and pipefitters, it has a connection to America's nuclear power story.


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