A dam safety consultant has said that substandard construction and instrumentation problems were partly responsible for the Taum Sauk dam breach in Missouri, US, last December.
Paul C. Rizzo was hired by the dam’s owner AmerenUE to investigate the cause of the 408MW pumped storage project’s dam collapse, as part of a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) requirement.
On December 14th 2005, a 213m rupture of the 40-year-old hydroelectric plant caused more than 4.5B litres of water to flood the Johnsons Shut-Ins state park near Lesterville, Missouri.
Rizzo, who has 40 years experience as a professional engineer and is head of the firm Paul C. Rizzo Associates, earmarked the following points as Key Causes of the Taum Sauk failure: stability failure; poor design; specification and maintenance of instrumentation and control systems.
AmerenUE is reacting to the report by initiating safety initiatives. As part of this, the company is:
• Creating a dam safety programme with a highly experienced civil engineer as its chief dam safety engineer. The programme will include development of an updated dam inspection plan and implementation of site-specific safety and instrumentation training. The chief dam safety engineer has the authority to conduct unannounced facility inspections and to take necessary corrective action when dam safety is threatened – including the issuance of a stop work order for operational activities and plant shutdowns. Acting as a single point of contact for state and federal regulatory officials, the engineer will work with a group of highly experienced engineering professionals – including consultants – all with expertise in dam safety.
In addition, the company plans to:
• Establish an independent quality assurance team to review and strengthen, if necessary, operational processes and procedures throughout its generation system. The team will be analysing engineering plans, looking at best practices and processes and implementing recommended changes.
• Re-examine the safety procedures at all AmerenUE facilities, including the company’s emergency action plans.
• Evaluate the training of all employees in safety and operations to insure they fully understand the signs of possible plant failure.
AmerenUE has also developed a Safety Stabilisation plan, which FERC has instructed them to carry out. The plan is slated for completion in summer 2006.
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