Mariupol’s concrete can offer a solution to Port Talbot’s two-fold problem

By Jessie Shier ©

The Times ran an article in March 2022, about the inadvertent revealing of a potential solution to two problems that plague a Welsh town, as well as other places. The concrete in the roads and streets and buildings of Mariupol, Ukraine, was a type of ‘green’ concrete, formulated during the Soviet era. It was created using a waste material from blast furnaces in steel plants mixed with an alkali solution; the chemical reaction during the mixing does not create carbon dioxide emissions. Russia’s war against this region of Ukraine has destroyed most of this concrete.

It was important because it was used in the buildings and roads many years ago, and so it was possible for scientists and engineers to observe how it lasted. It was also unique, since it came about as an improvisation due to a shortage of the materials to make traditional concrete at the time in the Soviet Union. 

These countries have a long history of this type of behaviour, and so it would have been sensible and prudent for scientists and engineers to study this concrete as much as possible, especially when the situation was moving toward outright tension but was still safe. Samples could have been taken. I would imagine that it is already known exactly how this concrete was formulated, and so it can be duplicated. Also, it is not every single road and building that has been destroyed – some remain and some will. Further, that which has been destroyed is obviously now in pieces, but perhaps these pieces can be useful. Therefore, it is not the total loss that the article dramatically makes it out to be. What the situation has done, in fact, is to highlight the presence and existence of this ‘green’ concrete – something that would have remained a secret had it not been for this. It is a vital find and I believe should be looked at immediately as an alternative to traditional concrete.

At Port Talbot, South Wales, UK, there is a steel plant with a tremendous amount of emissions from the blast furnaces – what a good solution if those emissions can be put to use creating concrete that solves two problems – removing those emissions from the air and creating concrete with fewer carbon dioxide emissions. The people’s health will also benefit, as there are significant health impacts in the area from the plant. There is also another problem that can be solved with this solution suggestion – the M4 motorway, located in the same town as the steel plant on great concrete legs, is disintegrating. Parts regularly fall off it into the streets below. It doesn’t get repaired because of the costs. Therefore, this could provide the answer to this dangerous problem.

The M4 motorway runs through the town on great concrete legs. In recent years, this concrete has been disintegrating, posing dire danger to people on the ground and. as time moves on, to traffic on the motorway.
Traffic Wales are managing the risk, by applying netting around disintegrating areas of the legs, fencing off the underpasses to prevent people from being injured by falling concrete, and by monitoring the situation with two-weekly inspections.

A potential solution is highlighted by the destruction of Mariupol, Ukraine, using the significant emissions from the blast furnaces at Port Talbot.

The risk management technique can only be very temporary, as the danger associated with disintegrating concrete on an elevated roadway is potentially extreme, involving the traffic as well as those below.

The image in the Traffic Wales article shows the foot of one of the legs with a large part of its concrete having fallen away. Clearly this compromises the strength of the leg to hold up the six-lane, high speed roadway.

It was the Soviet Union itself that caused the creation of this concrete that, so long later, may provide a real answer to climate problems vs development. It reminds me of the Trickster – who causes progression and development and change, even without realising it or meaning to, in a sort of backwards way.

^^^^Reference list ^^^^

The Times/The Sunday Times, Article title – ‘The key to fixing climate change was hiding in Mariupol’s concrete’, 27/3/22.

Large parts of M4 bridge falling off and landing close to people’s houses in Port Talbot | ITV News Wales

M4 Port Talbot Bypass Safety Measures FAQS | Traffic Wales

This article was written as an academic project for a Master’s programme with The Open University, by Jessie shier, in 2022.

It is copyrighted material. Jessie Shier, 2022 ©.