The Unchahar power plant where the blast took place
All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF) suspects safety standards were compromised in the company’s haste to operationalise unit a year ahead of schedule
Did officials of NTPC compromise on safety resulting in the accident in which 30 workers, most of them casual workers, lost their lives and 66 others received burns, some of them over 70 per cent, and are struggling for their lives at the Unchahar Thermal Power Plant?
Questions are being raised whether the unit no. 6 of the Unchahar Thermal Power plant was ready for trial. Was the operation cleared by the competent authority or did the NTPC board or chairman force officials to start operations without allowing a “cooling period” for the plant to settle down?
Electrical engineers NH spoke to said that normally it takes a new, thermal unit three and a half years to four years to become operational. But at Unchahar, this particular unit was being pushed to become operational in two and a half years. Was the NTPC chairman also under pressure, they wondered.
“The admission that around 150-200 people were working in the boiler section at the time of the accident is a clear indication that work in the plant was not complete. In a running plant only 5-6 people work at a time in that section. Why were so many people working there ?” asks Shailendra Dubey, Chairman, All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF) .
Safety factors should not be compromised in the company’s rush to complete projects ahead of schedule, the engineers say. The AIPEF has demanded a high level independent enquiry in the whole matter so that such type of incident may not occure in future, he said.
The blast was reportedly triggered in the duct connected to the boiler which is used for transferring ash of burnt coal. It is believed that the ash pipe got choked, causing the blast.
Apart from huge accumulation of ash in the furnace, the problem also got aggravated when the coal powder which was pumped into the furnace developed a `clinker formation’ .As workers were engaged to break the clinkers, the coal supply got disrupted. This disturbed the pressure which rose to +350 mmwc from the normal pressure of +/-5 mmwc into the boiler which started vibrating before bursting from corner number 2, an engineer tried to explain.
“The formation of coal clinkers often causes serious problem for smooth working of a power plant,” confirmed Dubey. He said that the boiler has enormous pressure which needs to be maintained with smooth flow of coal.
He said that AIPEF would be submitting a memorandum to Central Power Minister R K Singh demanding strict adherence of safety measures in running the power plants.
Meanwhile, four critically injured workers succumbed to their injuries at different government hospitals in Lucknow late last night taking the toll to 30. Still more than 60 critically injured were admitted at different hospitals.
Principal secretary (home) Arvind Kumar said that 19 people died in Rae Bareli while the rest died in different hospitals including in Lucknow.
The victims were mostly contractual workers engaged in construction work of the boiler.
According to an eye witness, a big explosion rocked the campus with black smoke engulfing the unit. There were around 1150 worker working in the power plant at the time of the incident. Most of the deceased were burnt alive.
According to the reports, the plant was on a trial run and generating 200 Megawatts of power which was not yet being supplied to the grid.