Case Study: Sayano Shushenskaya Hydroelectric Power Station

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Case Study: Sayano Shushenskaya Hydroelectric Power Station Introduction: Located on the Yenisei River, nearest to Sayanogorsk in Khakassia, Russia, the Soviet-era Sayano-Shushenskaya Hydroelectric Power Station was opened in 1978. By 2009, the plant was ranked sixth in the world and first in Russia for gross hydroelectric power generation. A total of ten turbines were utilized to provide 6,400 MW of electricity to the Russian infrastructure.1 As workers arrived to the plant around 08:00 h on 17 August 2009, there was no cause for immediate alarm. Of the ten turbines, nine of them were running with a tenth down for routine maintenance. Turbine two, however, was causing significant vibrations as its load varied with electricity demand. At 08:13 h, vibration of the turbine bearing reached a maximum and caused a catastrophic failure. The turbine cover shot up as the 1,000 t rotor shot off of its seat. The newly created hole in the structure allowed water to surge at a rate of 67,600 gal s-1 into the machinery hall and flood the levels below.2 The massive jet of water ripped apart the metal joists which held up the roof over turbines one, two and three. As the roof came down, water continued to flood the plant. Long after the automatic safety system should have been triggered, turbines seven and nine still operated at full speed, causing what were witnessed as large explosions in their vicinity as flooding reached their control panels. Luckily, by 09:20 h the 170 t steel water intake gates to each turbine were manually closed using relief valves on each gate's hydraulic support jack. At 11:32 h a diesel generator was brought in to restore power to the area. Later, at 11:50 h, 11 spillway gates were opened to relieve excess ... ... middle of paper ... ...ing is also taught here, as workers at the plant had never completed any emergency drills and no backup generator was installed to provide power to the plant itself in the case of an emergency. Much of the reason for turbine two's failure, however, rests in the hands of man. The maintenance and inspection personnel clearly knew that the intense vibrations were not normal, but still the turbine was used. This could also have fallen back to management, as they should have ensured that maintenance directives were being followed. In relation to this it should be noted that directly following the explosions as many people were fleeing, several supervisors in charge of safety and emergencies also fled. Ultimately, this was an entirely preventable disaster brought on by human negligence, exacerbated by mechanical fatigue and ended with lessons learned at a steep price.

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