ELMA, Wash. — Looming 496 feet over the forests of Grays Harbor County is a strange sight.
This shuttered nuclear power plant is Nathan Hoover's office.
"You know it doesn't,” he said when asked if reporting to work at a closed nuke plant ever gets old. “It's unique in the way that there are probably only a couple of these in the world – reactor buildings that you can actually access."
In 1983 - drowning in debt - the Satsop Nuclear Power Plant was mothballed before it could even open for business.
Tearing it down would have been too expensive so it still stands today - in all of its post-apocalyptic glory. The plant’s two cooling towers are clearly visible from Highway 8 as it passes Elma. What you can’t see from the highway is the thriving complex of office buildings located at the base of the towers. The power plant part might be defunct, but don't be fooled. This place is open for business.
"It's not abandoned, the site is owned and managed by the Port of Grays Harbor,” said Alissa Shay, manager of development for Satsop Business Park. "It's 1800 acres total and we manage it as a business park, so we have about 50 tenants here doing business. It's definitely very active."
Some of that action comes from Hollywood: Cooling Tower 3 was once taken over by a Decepticon in Transformers 5: The Last Knight.
And Mark Whalberg saved the day in Cooling Tower 5 in Transformers 4: Age of Extinction.
“They were here for weeks and it's like two seconds of the movie!" said Hoover, who is the project coordinator for the business park. He actually landed a walk-on role in one of the movies that shot at the plant.
A super thick concrete door – the portal to the reactor core – also got a big part in one of the movies. Today, the super thick cement walls make it one of the world’s quietest rooms, and a company actually does sound research and engineering inside what would have been a highly radioactive place had the plant gotten up and running.
It’s a different sound story inside the vast towers: Stand in the middle, make noise... and the echo bounces endlessly up the cement walls. That unique audio property attracts recording artists and video game designers to the place.
This plant also draws the curious. There’s no radiation here, the reactor core was never fueled. But many spots are off-limits for safety reasons.
But the roads are accessible to the public anytime. And the Port has walking tours that take visitors behind the scenes in spring and summer.
The Satsop Nuclear Plant never made electricity – but it remains a powerful presence.
“It can be eerie, it can be beautiful,” said Shay. "It is definitely a unique setting to go to work in every day.”