By Uditha Jayasinghe
The Government was yesterday quick to assure that the fire at the Norochcholai power plant had caused no damage and all systems were go to release 300 MW to the national grid in January, while initiating a probe on possible sabotage.
Power and Energy Minister Champika Ranawaka told the media that the fire had resulted due to a welding incident within one of the chimneys of the Norochcholai plant and that a 3m thick plastic filter had caught fire.
However, the fire had been kept from spreading to the main chimney and the Minister insisted that the plant could be made operational even without the filter, which is used to limit the escape of extra sulphur into the atmosphere.
“The fire was brought under control with the assistance of the Air Force, Fire Brigade and Police. It did not in any way detract from completing the project on schedule,” the Minister noted, adding that all but 5% of the construction was complete.
Following an observation tour, Ranawaka said that he would use the expertise of the Atomic Energy Authority to test the structural soundness of the facility after the fire.
The Norochcholai power plant was due to be completed in 2012, but is being completed two years ahead of schedule under a special fast-tracked programme. The Minister remarked that the first coal shipment for the plant would arrive in Sri Lanka in November.
Once power generation begins, the Minister expressed confidence that they would be able to minimise production costs of a unit of electricity to Rs. 10, which would be half the cost of a power unit generated by diesel that would be around Rs.19-Rs.20.
Ranawaka also emphasised that the Government Analyst and Police would investigate the allegations of sabotage and present reports to him as soon as possible. The cost of the fire damage would be covered by the insurance of the company under the agreement signed with the Ministry. “This means that the Government does not have to pay any money to repair damages,” he insisted.