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Business News/ Industry / Energy/  Govt sets up panel to probe NTPC blast

New Delhi: The Union power ministry on Monday set up a high-level committee to investigate the 1 November blast at state-run NTPC Ltd’s Unchahar power plant in Raebareli and suggest measures to prevent such incidents.

The committee, headed by P.D. Siwal, member-thermal at the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), will submit its report within a month.

The blast occurred in the boiler area of the recently commissioned 500 megawatts (MW) unit of the 1,550MW coal-fuelled plant (about 110km from state capital Lucknow). The plant supplies electricity to Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, Chandigarh, Delhi and Uttarakhand. The death toll from the blast stands at 36.

A power ministry order issued on Monday, reviewed by Mint stated, “In exercise of powers conferred under Section 161 (2) of the Electricity Act 2003, Government of India, Ministry of Power, hereby, constitutes a committee to investigate the causes of the accident that occurred on 01.11.2017 at the Feroze Gandhi Thermal Power Plant of NTPC Ltd at Unchahar TPP (Unit-VI: 500 MW) in Uttar Pradesh."

Other members of the committee are Subir Chakraborty, director-projects at Uttar Pradesh Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Ltd; Dhawal Prakash Antapurkar, director of steam boilers, Maharashtra; and L.D. Papney, chief engineer, thermal engineering and technology development division at CEA, India’s apex power sector planning body. “The committee, if required, may seek assistance from experts or co-opt other members," the order said.

According to NTPC, the explosion, which injured around 80 people, occurred during attempts to remove the bottom ash from beneath the furnace through a controlled operation of poking. Pressure went up, resulting in the economizer section opening up. This resulted in the sudden release of gas and steam.

NTPC, India’s largest power generation utility, has also set up a committee headed by executive director (operations) S.K. Roy to investigate the incident wherein the economizer duct blew, releasing flue gas and steam. The committee is to submit its report within a month.

According to the terms of reference of the government committee, its job is “to investigate the causes of the accident and fix responsibility for lapses, if any," and “to suggest remedial measures to avoid recurrence of such incidents in future."

The state government has also ordered an inquiry to determine within seven days the cause of the blast. The National Human Rights Commission has served a notice on the UP government for the deaths.

Equipment for the plant was supplied by state-run Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (Bhel). NTPC operates 46 units of 500MW across its projects, with a bulk of the machinery supplied by Bhel, India’s largest power generation equipment manufacturer.

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Utpal Bhaskar
"Utpal Bhaskar leads Mint's policy and economy coverage. He is part of Mint’s launch team, which he joined as a staff writer in 2006. Widely cited by authors and think-tanks, he has reported extensively on the intersection of India’s policy, polity and corporate space.
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Updated: 07 Nov 2017, 04:29 AM IST
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