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9 Sep, 2009 12:10

Fatal dam blast: equipment problems revealed two years ago

The disaster at Russia’s biggest power plant, which left dozens dead, could have been prevented, according to the head of the Russian Accounts Chamber.

Sergey Stepashin said the Sayano–Shushenskaya hydro-electric plant in the Republic of Khakassia in Siberia was checked by the Russian Accounts chamber.

“We mentioned that 85 % of all technological equipment must be replaced. We sent an official notification to the government and the Prosecutor General’s Office.

“And this is the answer which we received: The plant is a joint-stock company, so shareholders must take care of any technological equipment probe,” Stepashin said.

Meanwhile, the Russian State Duma is going to launch a parliamentary investigation into the case. A special commission may be formed as early as this Friday and it will be headed by Yury Lipatov, chairman of the Lower House Committee on Power Generation.

“It’s the first time since the bill on parliamentary investigations was adopted in 2005 that members of the State Duma have agreed that the tragic events at the Sayano-Shushenskaya station demand an obligatory parliamentary inquiry,” says Lipatov.

“The major aim of the commission is to investigate the real causes of the catastrophe. We have to inform society openly of what has happened,” he added.

RusHydro company – the owner of the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydropower station –has reportedly decided to give 9.6 billion rubles ($300 million) for the restoration of the plant by 2010. Russian insurance company Rosno will also pay out the equivalent of around $200 million in compensation, which makes this case the biggest insurance case in the modern history of the country.

Earlier, the acting head of RusHydro Vasily Zubakin, said around 40 billion rubles ($1.3 billion) and 3 to 4 years will be needed to restore the power plant. According to Zubakin, to fulfill the task, the goal of RusHydro will be use its assets, as well as the reserve funds of the company, insurance and possibly loans.

The blast at the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydropower plant occurred on August 17 and killed 74 people. One woman is still missing.

Twenty five families of those who died in this tragedy have already received compensation of one million rubles (over $30,000). The others will receive the money in the near future. Further compensation payments will be made by the Rosno insurance company.

The causes of the tragedy are still not known, but a terror act has been ruled out.

The findings of the investigation are expected by the end of October.

The cost of complete restoration of the station is estimated at more than a billion US dollars and the project could take up to five years to complete.