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Unchahar NTPC boiler blast: Probe panel blames operating staff for negligence

While the committee admitted that a shutdown was ruled out by the senior management, it said the operating staff was ultimately responsible for decisions on safety.

lucknow Updated: Jan 13, 2018 09:33 IST
Brajendra K Parashar
Brajendra K Parashar
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Investigation,Probe panel,Unchahar
Smoke billowing out of the NTPC’s Unchahar Power Plant after the blast on November 1, 2017. (PTI File Photo)

A four-member inquiry committee probing the NTPC boiler blast at Unchahar has blamed it on the operating staff’s negligence. As many as 43 people were killed and several injured in the November 1 tragedy.

The panel, instituted by the Uttar Pradesh labour department, submitted its final report on the tragedy to labour commissioner PK Mohanty earlier this week. The committee’s brief was to identify the cause of the blast.

This is the first probe report on the incident to have emerged so far. The findings of at least three more parallel inquiries, including one ordered by the Centre, are still awaited.

“I have received the report and forwarded it to the state government for necessary action,” said Mohanty, who is also the Kanpur division commissioner.

He, however, refused to elaborate on the investigation. “It is a 25-page report, and I do not exactly remember the content,” he said.

The panel was headed by director (boiler section, labour department) RK Purvey, and comprised Anil Kumar Gupta, additional vice-president (technical), Reliance Rosa Power Supply Company Ltd; Manu Arora, general manager (boiler and auxiliary), Hindalco Industries Ltd (power division), Renu Sagar, Sonebhadra; and Jagmohan, deputy director, boiler section.

The committee, according to people familiar with the probe, has found the Unchahar plant’s operating staff guilty of gross negligence in running the 500 MW unit.

“The formation and accumulation of clinker in the boiler duct due to non-cleaning had increased the pressure to a level where the duct got choked and burst due to high pressure. It resulted in fly ash – heated up to 400-500 degrees Celsius – coming out with enormous force and engulfing whoever was at close range,” one of the committee members revealed.

“Shutting down the unit could have prevented the accident, but the operating staff ignored even the most basic principles of mechanical science,” he said.

The operating staff, however, has maintained that the senior management had ordered against the shutdown.

“The management asked the operating staff to run the 500 MW unit at a lower load of 200 MW instead of shutting it down. But we hold the operating staff responsible because it was their job to ensure safety,” he quoted the report as saying.

The committee did not find any fault with the boiler itself.

Additional chief secretary (labour) R K Tiwari said that though he had received the report from the labour commissioner, action would be taken only after the national boiler board comes out with its findings.

Incidentally, the boiler — launched in March last year — has helped the NTPC cross the 50,000 MW record mark of electricity generation in the country.

First Published: Jan 12, 2018 21:32 IST