Sunset for Cameo plant

Workers continue to tear down the Xcel Energy Cameo power plant.

Workers remove the asbestos paint from one of the stacks in the Xcel decommissioning program.

The familiar stacks of the Cameo Generating Station in De Beque Canyon won’t survive the spring.

The twin stacks are likely to come down in the next month as the power plant built in 1957 is reduced to scrap and shipped away.

Xcel Energy Corp. isn’t saying how much the decommissioning of the power plant will cost, but Xcel Area Manager Fred Eggleston said it will exceed the cost of fixing the Shoshone Generating Station some 90 miles up the Colorado River when the penstocks feeding its turbines had to be replaced. That job ran $18 million.

The 1,200-acre Cameo site eventually will be restored with native grasses as Xcel and the Grand Junction Economic Partnership consider how best to use the land on which the plant generated 66 megawatts of electricity for more than half a century.

The most visible operations now are of the cleanup of the exterior surface of the stacks, which were painted with asbestos paint.

The contractor for the decommissioning is now using a solution that peels away the paint. The solution drips down the stack to the bottom where it is collected, Eggleston said.

The solution approach was tried after a previous effort to wrap the plant in plastic to contain asbestos and other contaminants failed.

“The winds took care of that,” Eggleston said.

With a reliable technique for asbestos removal in hand, the next step is to topple the stacks in such a way that one falls to the ground and then the second stack will fall on the rubble of the first, concentrating the remains of the stacks, where the debris can be collected and removed.

Once the stacks and buildings are gone, the only reminder of the area’s electricity-generating history will be the substation, which Eggleston said will remain.

“It’s a vital substation for us,” he said.

Cameo’s closure was opposed by Mesa County’s legislative delegation three years ago, but the decommissioning came only a few years early. Xcel had planned to close the station in 2014 in any case.

Building footings and some tanks and other equipment will remain on the site, but be buried as the site is returned to a natural state, Eggleston said.

Some low-level radioactive materials, including tailings used to build the plant originally, are to be shipped to the disposal site south of Whitewater, he said.

Xcel will work with GJEP to decide what will happen next on the site, he said.

One proposal calls for a shooting and archery range on the site. Xcel has received other proposals, but Eggleston said the company has been working on the cleanup, setting other matters aside for the moment.

“We want to find the best use of the property that is the best community interest,” Eggleston said.


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