Investigation of Russian hydropower accident ordered

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has ordered an investigation of the accident that killed 75 people at Russia’s largest hydropower plant, saying any attempt to skimp on safety would be deemed “criminal.”

Putin’s comments come after Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin said the repairs that were under way at the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydropower station when it flooded were being performed by a fraudulent company created by officials of RusHydro, the plant’s owner and operator.

According to the Moscow Times, Putin said it would be “irresponsible and criminal” to “trust” repairs at the dam to companies affiliated with RusHydro.

Citing a source close to RusHydro, the Times reported that the general contractor for the current construction of a shore spillway at the dam is United Energy and Construction Corp., which is co-owned by Alexander Toloshinov, a member of RusHydro’s board. In addition, a subcontractor for the construction project is Sayangidrospetsstroi Ltd., a majority share of which is owned by Sergei Voskresensky, director general of Lengidroproyekt, a RusHydro subsidiary, the Times wrote.

After the Aug. 17, 2009, accident, Putin banned firms owned and managed by RusHydro officials from taking part in repairs, according to the Times.

Meanwhile, RusHydro has suffered another major setback.

The company’s plan to build a 12,000 MW power station on the Lower Tunguska River has stalled amid protests from residents in the town of Tura. At a recent public hearing on the Evenkia project, the town’s residents declared the hearing invalid, citing a lack of research by RusHydro and concerns for the environment.

The proposed dam would raise the water level to 200 meters above sea level. Most of Tura and five smaller villages along the river would be flooded. About 5,000 residents would have to relocate, according to the Times.

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