From Germany’s worst construction project and a nuclear power plant that provided a staggering one hour of electricity over its 20 year lifetime, to India’s Twin Towers, which became the tallest buildings to ever voluntarily be demolitioned in the country, today we’ll take a look at megaprojects that took a really dumb turn for the worse.
And we start with Number 3: Germany’s Worst Construction Project Following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent German reunification in 1990, the city of Berlin found itself in an interesting situation. Having been previously divided, the city now had three old but pretty much still functioning airports located in what used to be separate parts of the city. In a plan to further unify and centralize Berlin, officials made plans to build a brand new, larger, and more modern central airport that would serve as the sole commercial airport for the entire city. With this, the existing Tegel, Tempelhof, and Schönefeld airports were to be closed in order to consolidate all incoming commercial air travel towards the new central airport. It was decided that the new airport was to be owned and operated by Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg, a company owned by the states of Berlin and Brandenburg along with the German federal government. After much deliberation, the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport was set to be built just south of the old Schönefeld Airport and one of the old runways were to be reused for the new airport. After more than a decade of planning, construction on the airport finally began in September of 2006 with a planned opening on the 30th of October 2011. However in 2010, the opening date was moved to the 3rd of June 2012 following small construction delays. By November of 2011, the new airport was looking pretty much ready for the grand opening the following year. There even was a simulation of the airport systems which consisted of thousands of volunteers simulating check-in, security, boarding, and baggage procedures. By early 2012, much of the airport’s retail outlets had already been leased as various shops and restaurants were preparing for the anticipated opening. Airlines have also started planning their flight schedules and had already sold tickets to make way for the airport’s opening in June. A grand opening event was planned for the 3rd of June which was to be televised live by German TV networks and to be attended by former German chancellor Angela Merkel. Hundreds of extra staff had been hired for the occasion and Lufthansa was even set to conduct a special flight at the airport to mark the first departure. Everything leading up to the new airport’s opening in June was looking to be going as planned, until on the 8th of May, just a mere 26 days from the planned opening date, FBB announced that the airport’s opening was to be delayed by another year citing fire safety concerns and technical difficulties surrounding the terminal’s systems for exhausting smoke. It was revealed that the airport’s system of fire switches, alarms, sprinklers, and exhausts were simply all over the place. During testing, some alarms were found to have not worked entirely while others did work but in completely different parts of the airport’s terminal! Funnily enough, despite the obvious lack of a proper fire prevention system, and not wanting the airport’s opening to be delayed any further, the project’s managers had the very bold idea of hiring hundreds of “fire spotters” to stand around the terminal and act as a temporary replacement for the dysfunctional fire alarms! This was of course not up to the standards that would certify the airport safe and usable for passengers, and so the opening was ultimately delayed once more. A bunch of other issues started to arise over the next few years as the airport’s opening kept getting delayed further and further. Hundreds of kilometers of wiring had to be rerouted and rebuilt following drastic changes in the airport’s layout. Thousands of doors were numbered incorrectly. There weren’t enough check-in desks. Entire walls had to be demolished and rebuilt. A former manager for the airport was even found to have accepted a corrupt bribe for a company to secure a bid in the construction! At one point, it was even reported that hundreds of TV displays inside the terminals have already broken over the duration of the airport’s delays because they were left running despite the airport itself not even being open to the public! After a grand total of 10 different delays over a period of 14 years, the Berlin Brandenburg Airport finally opened to the public on the 31st of October 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which made it an extremely difficult opening month for the 14-year-old “new” airport. Number 2: The Most Useless Power Plant Ever Constructed The Monju Nuclear Power Plant was a promise of nuclear energy security for the Japanese people when it was first proposed for construction back in 1983.
Located in the Fukui Prefecture in central Japan, Monju was a proof of concept for a new technology that would have significantly reduced Japan’s dependency on importing foreign nuclear fuel. The power plant was one of two prototype reactors designed to use spent fuel like plutonium from conventional nuclear reactors thereby substantially reducing the country’s nuclear waste and serving as a reliable source of power for the fast-growing Japanese economy. While the technology for these reactors was still in its infancy, the move to begin construction on the Monju Power Plant in the 80s seemed like a very good idea for Japan. With the plant’s construction, Japan had the opportunity to further improve the technology and conduct real-world tests to prove its efficiency and safety to the Japanese people. Construction on the plant began in 1986 and continued to be smooth-sailing until 1994 when the plant’s nuclear reactor first reached criticality – which is the point in a nuclear chain reaction when it becomes self-sustaining. Finally, in August 1995 the plant was inaugurated with the Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corporation taking charge of operations. Since its inauguration, the Monju Power Plant seemed to be performing properly and all systems were functioning as intended. Unfortunately, just three months after the plant was commissioned, a coolant leak that subsequently caused a fire in the facility forced Monju to temporarily shut down. This incident would soon become the first of many unfortunate, and sometimes just even plain dumb issues and controversies that would plague the power plant for decades to come. After initial investigations, the coolant leak was attributed to a weak point in one of the pipes that carried the coolant for the plant.
Although the accident was not radioactive in nature, it was met with harsh criticism from the Japanese public when it was later revealed that the company in charge tried to cover up the incident by falsifying official reports, editing surveillance footage, and issuing a gag order to its employees. Following the 1995 accident and subsequent shutdown of the power plant, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency announced their plans to finally restart Monju in 2000, but the public were still very much against the idea of the plant’s reopening and so an ensuing five-year long legal battle took place that ultimately resulted in the Japanese Supreme Court giving the go signal for the plant’s recommissioning. Monju was scheduled to restart in 2008, but it was unfortunately delayed a total of two more times and moved back as far as February of 2010 because of the discovery of holes in one of the facility’s auxiliary buildings. The plant’s recommissioning became even more difficult and expensive after the delays when the new fuel that was loaded in the reactor back in 2008 was found to have already decayed to only half of its original plutonium count making criticality impossible without requiring another expensive replacement. Monju finally became partially operational in May of 2010 but unsurprisingly at this point, only three months later, another accident befell the power plant when a 3 tonne piece of equipment meant for refueling fell into one of the reactor vessels. It took authorities almost an entire year just to retrieve the fallen part from the reactor. Over the next few years, after a series of more incidents relating to improper maintenance and substandard management practices from the plant’s operators, which at this point is just honestly too many to count, the future of the Monju Nuclear Power Plant started to become uncertain. It also didn’t help that the 2011 Fukushima incident made the Japanese government reassess its nuclear policy as the Japanese public started to resist nuclear power. Over the course of two decades since Monju was commissioned, and after a total price tag of over $8.5 billion USD, the power plant generated usable power for the Japanese grid for a grand total duration of just one hour! In 2016, it was finally decided by the Japanese government that the Monju Nuclear Power Plant was to be decommissioned—a lengthy process that is expected to take 30 years and an additional $2.6 billion USD to complete. In its aftermath, the Japanese government never got anything in return from their investment and the Monju Nuclear Power Plant has only caused them billions of dollars and decades of wasted time to achieve virtually nothing. Number 1: The Demolition of India’s Twin Towers The New Okhla Industrial Development Authority, or Noida for short, is a planned city located in India’s National Capital Region just a few kilometers southeast of New Delhi.
As part of a rapid urbanization movement that began in 1976, the city has grown today to become one of the richest regions in the country and is classified as a special economic zone. In 2015, Noida was even ranked as the best city when it comes to housing in the entire country. One of the top players in the country’s real estate industry is Supertech Limited. Their Noida Supertech Twin Towers located in Sector 93A of the city are a pair of residential high-rise buildings that were planned to be the centerpiece of Supertech’s Emerald Court residential complex. A high-end residential development that features various amenities such as a clubhouse, gym, swimming pool, and even a jogging track. Individually, the towers were to be called the Apex and Ceyane Towers and would both stand as tall as 40 floors high. With such height, the twin towers were to be the tallest buildings within the entire residential complex, overlooking both Noida and New Delhi from its top floors. The first set of residential buildings in the Emerald Court complex started construction back in 2005. The original plan was for Supertech to construct 14 nine-story towers that would serve both residential and commercial purposes. But by 2009, when the smaller towers were already constructed and hundreds of residents have already moved in, the plan had changed unbeknownst to the residents. By this point, the new plan for the complex would now consist of 15 eleven-story buildings and two towers that would rise way beyond the rest of any other building in Emerald Court — the Apex and Ceyane towers. Four residents of Emerald Court were the first to notice how an area that was supposed to be the site of construction for a shopping complex and green area started to look suspiciously like the foundations for a residential high-rise. Emerald Court’s residents were rightfully angered and furious by how they were given false promises of luxurious apartments with open-air views of the city’s skyline. The high court ruled in favor of the residents in 2014 and ordered the demolition of the towers over the grounds of a violation of the National Building Code that required residential towers to be at least 16 meters apart compared to the tiny 9 meters that stood between the Twin Towers and a neighboring residential building. Supertech disputed the ruling and brought the legal battle up to India’s Supreme Court. Finally, in August of 2021, after a lengthy back and forth and nine years of tiring legal dispute, the Supreme Court upheld the ruling set forth by the Allahabad High Court back in 2014, and the demolition of the Noida Supertech Twin Towers was now set in stone. On the 28th of August 2022, after just a mere 10 seconds and around 3,700 kg of strategically placed explosives, the 100-meter towers containing around 850 flats quickly imploded upon itself in what is now the tallest structure to ever be voluntarily demolished in the country. What do you think about these megaprojects that took a really dumb turn?
Could their issues have been prevented? Let us know in the comments below. If you want to learn more about other megaprojects you can check out our video “Insane Megaprojects that were Never Built