November 01, 2009

Dam Disaster



russians have learned to fear August. It has repeatedly delivered disasters. This year, a catastrophe on August 17 at Sayano-Shushenskaya, Russia’s biggest dam on the Yenisey River, killed 75 people. The accident continues to baffle experts, while accusations are ricocheting through industry and the government.

Sayano-Shushenskaya, an enormous hydropower plant that belongs to RusHydro, now sits idle, water passing through the giant dam without powering the generators, all ten of which were destroyed when the machine room was flooded. One of the giant generator units exploded out of its housing due to extreme pressure, and water rushed into the machine room, where the night shift and a repair crew was working. Seventy-five of the 105 people working at the station died in cold and oily water over the next few hours.

The Federal Service for Ecological, Technological and Nuclear Supervision (Rostekhnadzor), the technical watchdog for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, delayed publication of its investigative report until early October, posted it on their official website on October 3, then took it offline after several hours. The 140-page report listed various causes for the accident, including those with roots in the 1980s. The list of people with direct or indirect responsibility included many managers of RusHydro, and even Anatoly Chubais, who headed United Energy Systems, the power monopoly broken up and reprivatized several years ago. The report said that Chubais and five other officials were responsible for “creating the conditions that contributed to the accident.”


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