German utility RWE says that it now expects that the fatal accident at its Neurath construction site on 25 October will considerably delay the commercial launch of the lignite-fired plant.

The accident occurred during installation work on the site. For reasons not yet known a side wall tie-bar structure weighing some 450 tonnes, part of a large boiler supplied by Hitachi, crashed to the ground during installation of the top module. This tragic accident caused the death of three fitters and injuries to five others. The five have now been pronounced as being out of danger.

Hitachi Power Europe has been taking part in the investigation in close co-operation with RWE, its consortium partners and suppliers to clarify what led to the accident.

One of the two power generation blocks will begin operations in 2010, about two months later than initially planned, while the second block’s launch will probably be delayed by 12-14 months, RWE chief operating officer Ulrich Jobs told reporters at the company’s annual earnings press conference in Essen.

Jobs said that parts of the construction site are still closed off owing to the investigation being carried out by public prosecutors, but declined to say how much the expected additional costs caused by the delay are likely to be.

RWE is investing EUR2.2 billion in what it says will be the world’s largest and most modern lignite-fired power plant with a combined power generation capacity of 2.1 gigawatts.