Monday, August 17, 2009

That must have been a nightmare!

I daresay many readers are aware of the disaster at a hydro-electric plant in Siberia. For those who haven't yet heard about it, the BBC reports:

About 65 people are missing after an explosion at Russia's largest hydro-electric power station killed 11 workers, officials have said.

An oil-filled transformer exploded at the Sayano-Shushenskaya power plant in Siberia, bringing down the ceiling of the turbine hall, which then flooded.

A diver has pulled one worker from an area beneath the turbine hall, but it is unclear how many may be trapped.

Fourteen workers were injured, but there was no damage to the plant's dam.

However, the accident has created a large oil slick that is now floating down the Yenisei river, which flows north through Siberia to the Arctic.

Officials said towns downstream of the plant were not thought to be at risk.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu and Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko to fly to the scene and take personal control of the crisis.

RusHydro, the operator of the power station, said the damage would run into "billions of roubles" and would take several months to repair.

In a statement, the Kremlin said the accident had been due to a "hydraulic impact" at the plant on Monday morning, which had forced the shutdown of all 10 of its power units.

An investigation is under way to determine the exact cause.

There's more at the link.

Andrei S., a regular reader of this blog who lives near the plant, sent me an e-mail with these pictures.

He comments that the damage visible was not caused by the transformer explosion, but by the impact of the rushing water.

He points out that water enters the generators at enormous pressure and velocity, spinning the turbines at very high speeds: and when this inflow is suddenly blocked, it has to go somewhere.

In this case, it 'blew out' into the plant, with the results visible in these photographs.

They're pretty sobering images, aren't they? I've always been amazed by the amount of damage large quantities of water, moving at high speeds, can do (see, for example, the excavator car wash featured on these pages a few days ago, or pictures of any flash flood scene). I'm rather glad I wasn't in that plant at the time . . . and whilst I hope and pray that the missing workers will be found alive and safe, I have a suspicion that's not likely to happen.

Pray for their souls, if you will.


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