NTPC blast: UP labour dept probe team accuses power giant of gross negligence
A probe team of the Uttar Pradesh labour department on Friday blamed gross negligence on the part of the state-run NTPC in operating the Unchahar plant for Wednesday’s blast, a charge denied by Union power minister earlier.
Over 30 people were killed in a boiler explosion at the 1550-MW Unchahar plant in Rae Bareli.
In its preliminary report, the labour department team has identified the formation of clinkers (stone-like residue from the burning of coal) in the boiler duct and the failure to poke (grind) them into smaller pieces for their removal as the primary reasons for the explosion.
Union power minister RK Singh on Thursday dismissed claims from some political leaders and families of the deceased that human negligence was to blame for the blast.
“I have seen everything during my physical inspection of the accident scene and I can say that there is no human negligence in the unfortunate incident,” Singh had told reporters after visiting the accident site along with state power minister Shrikant Sharma.
The NTPC said the reasons for the blast could be ascertained only after a probe ordered by it was completed.
“No one can say anything about the reasons till the probe is completed,” said RS Rathee, regional executive director of the NTPC, when asked about the labour department’s report.
The NTPC has appointed a panel headed by executive director SK Roy to probe the cause of the accident.
The five-member team headed by deputy director, labour, Jagmohan and boiler directorate in-charge RK Purvey sent its report to the state government on Friday evening, but did not recommend any action at this stage.
“Our objective at this juncture was to identify the cause of the accident. We have found the formation and accumulation of clinker in the boiler duct and the lack of its poking as the main reason for the explosion,” Jagmohan told HT over the phone from the accident site.
He said the report was sent to the government for further action.
“Formation of clinkers from the burning of coal is not an unusual phenomena, but it is poked and hammered manually into small pieces for removal from the boilers at regular intervals,” Jagmohan said.
“But, in this particular case, the operating staff showed utter carelessness by not poking the clinker when it was formed, allowing the deposit to accumulate that choked the space for fluid gas to come out. leading to the blast in the boiler duct,” he explained.
The air pressure in the duct is normally lower than atmospheric pressure. But the duct gets choked due to prolonged deposition of clinker, increasing the air pressure inside phenomenally.
He claimed the NTPC had the boiler licence as prescribed under the Indian Boiler Act and the renewal of the licence was due in December.
“The NTPC authorities did not inform us about the accident. We rushed to the site on our own, taking cognisance of media reports,” he said to a question.
Under the Indian Boiler Act, 1923, a thermal plant or factory is supposed to compulsorily inform the boiler inspector in writing within 24 hours of an accident occurring due to a boiler or a steam-pipe, a provision that was ignored in this case.
Additional chief secretary, labour, RK Tiwari said the state government would take “suitable action” in the matter after it received the report from the field.
“Our team is on the site probing the causes of the accident. We will act after the findings are received and examined,” he said.
On Thursday, the NTPC’s preliminary investigations into the blast revealed that the ill-fated unit had a problem in ash evacuation and officers were trying to fix the same.
It was because of this problem that the power generation at the plant was reduced to just 190 MW against its capacity of 400 MW.