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Concrete In Australia : September 2014
OBITUARY 62 Concrete in Australia Vol 40 No 3 Peter Nelson: A Fly Ash Pioneer Peter Nelson graduated in civil engineering from the University of Sydney, in the only Engineering School in NSW in the late 1940s early 1950s. He then worked for the Electricity Commission of NSW (Elcom) initially starting as a cadet engineer prior to graduation. He was involved in many civil engineering contracts and his knowledge and passion for the use of fly ash started before most had even thought of it in the late 1950s. Peter was involved in project works on Keepit Dam where he was responsible for setting up one of the first in situ trials with fly ash concrete using Wangi fly ash on spillway elements of the dam. His later work covered contracts for the construction of Munmorah and Vales Point Power Stations again where he was responsible for trialling fly ash concretes on the coal conveyor support slabs at Vales Point and on the outfall canal at Munmorah Power Station. By 1983, Peter was Supervising Engineer, Structural Design for the Civil Design group at Elcom. Peter taught many young engineers about the wonders of fly ash and on contract administration for construction of power station infrastructure. Many such engineers are now in our industry in high level strategic roles in construction companies. In his career, Peter had over 45 years civil engineering experience and commenced research into the use of fly ash in concrete in 1960. He was responsible for site supervision, structural design and contract administration for NSW power station works for over 30 years and had wide knowledge of specification preparation. He had served on several committees of the Standards Association of Australia including BD31 on Fly Ash in Concrete. Like his love of cricket, wine and good foods, Peter had an extraordinary passion for the use (and not waste) of fly ash. Peter was a highly skilled civil engineer who was visionary since the 1960s in looking at partially replacing cement for fly ash in concrete. Knowing that we do this routinely in construction today, this was certainly not the case back in the 1960s and 1970s and not a lot of research had been done on this topic at that point. Peter was way ahead of his time considering sustainability principles in the 1960s and 1970s where environmental issues were as far away as flat screen TVs, iphones and coloured clothing on the cricket field. Peter was a visionary who saw an opportunity working at Elcom, one of the biggest producers of power and fly ash in Australia, of trialling this material in construction. A key platform for the acceptance of new materials into construction is research done on the material as well as actual trialling on construction projects. In a time where it would have been difficult to introduce new concepts into construction for fear of risk and possible cost exposure, Peter had the ability to convince the powers that be to go with his vision of trialling fly ash concretes in actual projects. These structures remained in service for some 20 years before CSIRO and other organisations became involved under Peter’s direction in research projects that looked at the long term durability of fly ash in concrete structures. Peter had a very easy going and nurturing personality. He was great to work for and a brilliant mentor. He had passions for certain things like leg spin bowling, which he did very well. Peter’s work on fly ash was also done very well. All the studies undertaken by CSIRO, the Ash Development Association of Australia, Pacific Power and others found the concretes and civil engineering work done by Peter to be of the highest standards. After many years of research much of which guided by Peter and a few researchers in various organisations, the CSIRO by the early 1990s became strong advocates of fly ash concretes and promoted technologies relating to the material. Peter was instrumental in making that happen. This was followed by concrete companies in NSW and other parts of Australia routinely using the material in standard concretes, something Peter was passionate about. Peter also played a big role in making that happen. He published many articles on fly ash in the American Concrete Institute and in Engineers Australia journals to name a couple. After retirement from the Electricity Commission in the 1990s, Peter became Administrator of the Ash Development Association of Australia. He left his wonderful mark on many young engineers, the civil engineering profession and a legacy of the wide use of fly ash in commercial concretes in Australia and other parts of the world. Peter, we salute you, a Fly Ash Pioneer. Contributions by Daksh Baweja, Mick Ryan, Vute Sirivivatnanon, Trinh Cao, Harold Roper and Craig Heidrich. 62 - Obituary.indd 62 62 - Obituary.indd 62 26/08/14 10:25 AM 26/08/14 10:25 AM