Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Fatal Explosion At Russian Hydroelectric Dam

kdawson posted about 5 years ago | from the price-of-green dept.

Earth 336

stadium writes "An oil-filled transformer exploded at the Sayano-Shushenskaya power plant in Siberia, destroying three turbines and bringing down the ceiling of the turbine hall, which then violently flooded. The dam itself did not sustain any damage. It is unclear how many people were killed, but with 12 confirmed deaths and as many as 64 still missing (all presumed dead), this is a serious incident. The huge transformer had enough oil in it to produce a three-mile-long oil spill slowly moving downriver. BBC News reports with three separate videos. The dam produces a quarter of the total energy of RusHydro (whose stock thus took a steep dive at London Stock Exchange) and also feeds the world's largest aluminum smelter. The damages will take years to repair."

cancel ×

336 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Olde News? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29112397)

Isn't this news from yesterday?

Re:Olde News? (1)

ThePeices (635180) | about 5 years ago | (#29112407)

Welcome to Slashdot, you must be new here.

No, I'm New Here (1, Redundant)

New Here (701369) | about 5 years ago | (#29113231)

No, I'm New Here

Re:Olde News? (3, Funny)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | about 5 years ago | (#29112463)

Isn't this news from yesterday?

No, you are caught in a temporal loop.

Re:Olde News? (-1)

FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) | about 5 years ago | (#29112475)

That's a lot of oil in a plant which is supposed to generate electricity without fossil fuels...

Re:Olde News? (5, Interesting)

Dogtanian (588974) | about 5 years ago | (#29112521)

Is there any chance that this transformer would have contained PCBs (i.e. Polychlorinated biphenyl)? They used to be used as dielectrics. I know that the US banned them in the early 70s- or rather, read that on WP- but the age and Soviet/Russian regulations could still make this an unpleasant possibility.

Re:Olde News? (5, Interesting)

v1 (525388) | about 5 years ago | (#29112817)

PCBs are a lot cheaper than the alternatives, and it's a lot easier to justify storing it in a transformer than using it somewhere external. Transformers that are working properly and maintained are sealed quite well and unless one blows up (like this) there's no danger or health hazards to anyone.

Pity the folk that get to work on those transformers though. I know someone that was looking for a building to move his small business into, and found a cheap place that had these rows of benches all around its inside perimiter... heavy benches, with 2-3ft holes all the way down the row. What are whose for? They didn't know what the former owner used them for. (suuuuure they didn't) Turned out to be formerly owned (several owners ago in VERY short succession) by the city's electric works. It was a building for transformer repair for the units you see up on the telephone poles. Place was loaded with PCBs, soaked into the wood of the beams, benches, and walls, even the dirt was a love canal. He almost got stuck with it too. In those games, whoever "discovers" (formally) the contamination while in ownership is left "holding the bag" and is responsible for cleanup. That "bargain" would have bankrupt him and then some. The guy that clued him in was even cleaning off his shoes after they left the building, it was baaad.

Re:Olde News? (2, Interesting)

sarahbau (692647) | about 5 years ago | (#29113125)

There's a site near where I live where for 40 years, the Ward Transformer Company [epa.gov] was contaminating the surrounding area with PCBs. They've been cleaning the dirt for over a year, with an estimated cost of $6,130,000. That's not a cost I'd want to buy. Good thing your friend was warned away from buying. Of course I think I'm paying for this $6 million cleanup with my taxes.

Re:Olde News? (-1, Offtopic)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | about 5 years ago | (#29113235)

In Soviet Russia!

River dams You!

Re:Olde News? (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | about 5 years ago | (#29112533)

By the same token couldn't you say the same about any solar/wind/geothermal/hydroelectric plant that makes use of oil-filled transformers or even plastics? In any case, is it still a fuel if it isn't being expended?

Re:Olde News? (5, Interesting)

plopez (54068) | about 5 years ago | (#29112663)

The PCB is a dielectric and coolant, *not* a fuel. Oil is used in a huge number of areas as a material and not as a fuel.

There is actually a school of thought among some in the chemical industry that oil is too precious to waste as a fuel. Think about it how it is used in medicine. Disposable plastics in medicine are critical in stopping infections. Precursor chemicals, often starting as petroleum, are used in pharmaceuticals.

In other areas petroleum products are important; e.g. tires, light weight building materials, glues, paints, solvents etc.

Just FYI.

Re:Olde News? (1)

diamondsw (685967) | about 5 years ago | (#29112889)

Food for thought. We can get by without gasoline; it will be an infinitely harder time getting by without plastics. As stated, most of modern medical practice is based on the assumption of cheap, sterile, disposable items (although I *do* hope a lot of that is recycled - biohazards melted away first, of course).

Re:Olde News? (5, Informative)

Mike Buddha (10734) | about 5 years ago | (#29113003)

We can get by without gasoline; it will be an infinitely harder time getting by without plastics. As stated, most of modern medical practice is based on the assumption of cheap, sterile, disposable items (although I *do* hope a lot of that is recycled - biohazards melted away first, of course).

We can make plastics from corn oil. Not a problem. Most medical waste is incinerated, for obvious reasons.

Re:Olde News? (1)

Ozlanthos (1172125) | about 5 years ago | (#29113217)

Yeah, it was called "hemponol", and the first cars were designed to run on it.

-Oz

Re:Olde News? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29113011)

Is it right that all plastics come (at least in part) from the hydrocarbons in crude oil?

Re:Olde News? (4, Insightful)

petermgreen (876956) | about 5 years ago | (#29113175)

Afaict most plastics are made from small unsaturated hydrocarbons like ethene and propene which are then polymerised. Theese hydrocarbons are made by cracking bits off the less valuable hydrocarbons in crude oil (e.g. you take stuff that's a bit too heavy to be petrol, crack bits off and get petrol and ethene/propene).

There have been some plastic-like substances made from biologically derived materials and i'm pretty sure other sources for unsaturated short chain hydrocarbons could be found too (they'd probablly just be a lot more expensive than cracking crude)

Re:Olde News? (2, Informative)

v1 (525388) | about 5 years ago | (#29112767)

the transformer uses oil as an insulating coolant, to move the heat out of the core and windings of the transformer to the cooling fins and radiators

usually nasty (cancer-causing) PCB stuff too. A LOT worse to the environment than 10W-40.

I would NOT be happy to be in a town whose main river is about to get a major dump of that. The fish won't be safe for months, and it's probably going to cause a fishkill all the way to the ocean/lake it empties into. Governments are well known to say "no really, it's safe, no problem, nothing to see here" when they know it's all kinds of bad news, just to avoid a PR nightmare.

Re:Olde News? (1)

John Hasler (414242) | about 5 years ago | (#29112807)

> usually nasty (cancer-causing) PCB stuff too.

PCBs have not been used in transformers for more than thirty years. These ones were almost certainly filled with mineral oil. If they had been filled with PCBs there would have been no explosion (though the BBC stories don't mention a transformer explosion anyway).

Re:Olde News? (4, Informative)

beelsebob (529313) | about 5 years ago | (#29112917)

PCBs have not been used in transformers in the USA for more than thirty years. Not forgetting of course that this hydro plant was built 31 years ago.

Re:Olde News? (-1, Redundant)

FrankSchwab (675585) | about 5 years ago | (#29112941)

PCBs have not been used in transformers IN THE USA for more than thirty years.

Fixed that for ya.

/frank

Re:Olde News? (5, Informative)

v1 (525388) | about 5 years ago | (#29112981)

TFA says the transformer exploded while being "serviced". A good wild guess would be they were welding on it and sparked some combustable gasses inside the case. (so it was probably partially drained at the time of the explosion) That air pocked inside the transformer would be an ideal condition for an explosion like that. Rapid expansion of gases inside an otherwise mostly sealed container like that would send multi-ton pieces of metal in all directions, it'd be like a giant frag grenade. You thought exploding batteries in DSLAM cabinets were bad, these are quite a bit worse.

As for age, there are PCBs in 1/4 of the trashcans on the poles today. Just because they don't manufacture with it anymore doesn't mean it's not still out there. Transformers are expensive, and I don't even know if you can change from PCB to mineral oil practically speaking. (it's gotta be hard to get PCB fluid out of saturated paper windings) BIG transformers like that are outrageously expensive and are only manufactured in a handful of places on earth, so much that price AND availability are problems when obtaining them. Odds of it being a PCB-containing unit are actually very high since big transformers are not only incredibly expensive but are also one of the longest life electronic components in existence. (they are also one of the most efficient)

Re:Olde News? (4, Informative)

John Hasler (414242) | about 5 years ago | (#29113151)

> TFA says the transformer exploded while being "serviced". A good wild guess
> would be they were welding on it and sparked some combustable gasses inside
> the case.

That's a pretty good guess. Acetylene can form inside oil filled transformers.

Re:Olde News? (1)

Fluffeh (1273756) | about 5 years ago | (#29113019)

If they had been filled with PCBs there would have been no explosion (though the BBC stories don't mention a transformer explosion anyway).

Reading comprehension is a wonderful thing. First sentence in the BBC article linked in the story:
An oil-filled transformer exploded at the Sayano-Shushenskaya power plant in Siberia, bringing down the ceiling of the turbine hall, which then flooded.

I think you might want to go grab another coffee.

Re:Olde News? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29113139)

Yes, that is indeed what they say...however I wonder a bit, because in my experience the transformers are not located in the power house, they are located in the switch yard. The usual process is that the power is generated at a convenient voltage for the generator to work at, then stepped up in the switchyard to a higher voltage for transmission. But the pictures we see are of extensive damage to the power house, and the flooding implies damage to the turbine or penstocks. The pictures seem to show considerable damage to at least one of the turbine generator sets.

That is not to say that a transformer failure might not have initiated it, if the transformer fails and dumps a hard short across the generator then things will get very exciting very quickly. This sort of thing can wrench a generator off its foundations, which would lead to the damage to the turbine side and hence the flooding.

Of course, this early in the piece it is kind of hard to get reliable information, and at that they have done better than with Chernobyl as far as announcing things is concerned.

Re:Olde News? (1)

John Hasler (414242) | about 5 years ago | (#29113165)

The BBC articles I read mention some sort of hydraulic surge. Other articles talk about a transformer.

WikiNews is also reporting a hydraulic surge (1)

John Hasler (414242) | about 5 years ago | (#29113267)

Link [wikinews.org]

Re:Olde News? (3, Informative)

TheGreenNuke (1612943) | about 5 years ago | (#29113153)

usually nasty (cancer-causing) PCB stuff

Reference please? Last I checked it was listed as a possible carcinogen, not a known carcinogen. Just about anything can be toxic in high enough concentrations, Oxygen makes the perfect example there.

Re:Olde News? (1)

Skuld-Chan (302449) | about 5 years ago | (#29112983)

You know there's oil inside electric cars right? Oil is used in lubrication and in those rather large transformers you see in the telephone poles around your neighborhood.

Re:Olde News? (-1)

ae1294 (1547521) | about 5 years ago | (#29113269)

Oil is used in lubrication

Please don't correct someone when you have no idea what you are talking about. It's not used as a lubricant, really what do you think is inside the transformer some spinning wheels or something? /FACEPALM

Re:Olde News? (1)

Jeremi (14640) | about 5 years ago | (#29113111)

That's a lot of oil in a plant which is supposed to generate electricity without fossil fuels...

The oil involved in this case was not fuel.

This is the first I've heard about it (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29112799)

My power just came back on.

Reason (5, Funny)

Daimanta (1140543) | about 5 years ago | (#29112417)

The transformer was a Decepticon.

Re:Reason (5, Funny)

JeanBaptiste (537955) | about 5 years ago | (#29112447)

I doubt the explanation is so simple.... there's probably more than meets the eye.

Re:Reason (-1, Troll)

HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) | about 5 years ago | (#29112597)

The terrorists did it. Siberian officials will petition the UN for disaster relief and anti-terrorist funding. The United States will offer to foot the bill if and only if Siberian officials encourage the remainder of what was the USSR to support a UN backed move by US military into Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and anyone else who does not immediately agree to tithe to Obama (or the current reigning US political figure). US taxpayers will be on the hook for a war in Afghanistan, a war in Iraq, and rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Siberia. US military contractor executives will reap huge bonuses, taxpayers will be liable for another twenty years' worth of debt, and the banks who manage the finances will apply for another bailout in five years--putting US taxpayers, as well as Iraqi and Afghani taxpayers (through US proxy since, by then, we will own their economies), on the hook for another thirty years.

Profit.

(I love the USA and all that but, seriously, it is not even about nationalism anymore. This is pure global financial enslavement perpetuated by people who really do not give a rat's patoot about the USA)

Re:Reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29112685)

You mod him offtopic now... watch what happens in international news over the next year. Think about this mod when you're looking at your taxes around next election time.

Re:Reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29112715)

Login Steven.

Re:Reason (4, Funny)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | about 5 years ago | (#29112629)

Beat me to the joke. Dam.

Re:Reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29112847)

Don't worry, they'll eventually rebuild and avenge the Fallen.

Only on /. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29112593)

This gets modded "Informative".

Roll out the crazies (5, Insightful)

ChefInnocent (667809) | about 5 years ago | (#29112425)

<sarcasm>So now we need stop hydroelectric power until it can be proven safe. We have no idea how much water has been released to contaminate the environment! If we continue to build and operate hydroelectric plants, the world will be doomed. How many more lives need be lost in our unquenchable thirst for power? Hydroelectric power is unsafe and this proves it!</sarcasm>

Re:Roll out the crazies (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29112485)

Glenn Beck says Hydro Dams are death panels and will kill grandma.

Re:Roll out the crazies (3, Insightful)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | about 5 years ago | (#29112569)

You think this is funny, but check out the controversy surrounding the Glen Canyon Dam... because having a desert canyon instead of a lake is "environmentally consciencious."

Re:Roll out the crazies (2, Insightful)

SoupGuru (723634) | about 5 years ago | (#29112653)

Is there something inherently wrong with a desert canyon?

I've heard the canyon was spectacularly beautiful before it was flooded.

Hayduke lives!

Re:Roll out the crazies (4, Insightful)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | about 5 years ago | (#29112759)

Is there something inherently wrong with a desert canyon?

Not neccessarily, but they are spectacularly bad at providing electricity, water, and biodiversity compared to a reservoir. Draining it will not fix the canyon, it will be the equivalent of spitting out, then stomping a chewed piece of gum, as far as restoring the original to its former glory and structure. Yet there you go...

Re:Roll out the crazies (5, Informative)

chmodman (565242) | about 5 years ago | (#29113023)

Go read Cadillac Desert. Damns do more harm to the environment that you might expect.

- Dams stop natural sediment flow, resulting in downstream river erosion

- Fish breeding / migration

- Increased irrigation enabled by dams causes pollution of ground water aquifers (increased salinity etc)

- Methane released decaying plant matter in non-oxygenated stagnant dam water

Re:Roll out the crazies (2, Interesting)

FrankSchwab (675585) | about 5 years ago | (#29112853)

It was spectacularly beautiful before it was flooded; much like the Grand Canyon.

It is still spectacularly beautiful, I go boating for a week on it every year. Something I can't do at the Grand Canyon. /frank

Re:Roll out the crazies (4, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | about 5 years ago | (#29112755)

You think that dramatically increasing the surface area (and thus evaporation rate) of a major river that barely sustains millions in a water-parched region and no longer reaches the ocean through most of the year is environmentally benign?

I'm not opposed to all hydro, but Glen Canyon was a mistake. The value of the water being lost there may soon equal the value of the power the dam is generating these days if things keep on going the way they're going.

Re:Roll out the crazies (1)

Sj0 (472011) | about 5 years ago | (#29112947)

Bitches don't know about my water table

Re:Roll out the crazies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29112985)

They why don't they figure out a way to put a roof on top of the reservoir to limit the evaporation?

Re:Roll out the crazies (1)

jeffstar (134407) | about 5 years ago | (#29113167)

like a pool cover?

must be environmentally unfriendly somehow... no longer can convince people that the reservoir is great because they can't boat/fish on it.

one day, when things get dire, they'll take the 20% extra water in the river and power from the generators over recreation maybe.

Re:Roll out the crazies (4, Funny)

ross.w (87751) | about 5 years ago | (#29112721)

Apparently this installation contained enormous quantities of DHMO as a coolant and working medium. We need to protest their excessive reliance on DHMO [dhmo.org] . This disaster is just one more proof that DHMO is a dangerous material that needs more regulation.

Re:Roll out the crazies (1)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | about 5 years ago | (#29112927)

If you're so opposed to it, why don't you eliminate 100% of your own consumption of DHMO?

Too much vodka (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29112433)

The Russian men hired to do the job were drunk, so they paid homeless babushkas to assemble the turbines with embezzled money. A few parts were put in backwards.

This event is depressing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29112449)

It's a damn shame that this happened.

Soviet russia (5, Funny)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 5 years ago | (#29112471)

In soviet russia, hydroelectric damns YOU.

Re:Soviet russia (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29112501)

Beat me to it. God dam [sic] you. (i.e. may you be afflicted with painful constipation.)

Re:Soviet russia (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29112601)

Are you FUCKING CRAZY? 12 people are dead and 64 others possibly DROWNED IN OIL, and you have to make a snide ass joke that's not terribly funny anymore?

Re:Soviet russia (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29112749)

I believe that they did not drown in oil you wanker, but rather the water that flooded the gallery. Besides, it's only human lives here, not anything special. Humans are a blight on the planet.

Re:Soviet russia (0)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 5 years ago | (#29112989)

No, I don't think that was an offensive joke at all. I didn't say anything about the victims, just made a pun about the dam itself. And I thought it was funny if I do say so myself. Others appear to agree. If you're saying a joke is tasteless, say it's tasteless. Don't say it's not funny, because it usually is, and that's not relevant to your whine anyway. /. is unquestionably american and european centric. The chances that any of the victims' families read that are pretty low. So I didn't feel bad about making it

Are you a family member of one of the victims? If so, I'm sorry, but you're not, and you have no right to be offended by jokes on this subject.

It is not the volts (0, Offtopic)

operator_error (1363139) | about 5 years ago | (#29112489)

It isn't the volts, but the amps that will kill you. Also, the risk isn't always what you expect to be obvious. Engineering is important.

Re:It is not the volts (4, Funny)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | about 5 years ago | (#29112575)

It isn't the volts, but the amps that will kill you.

Or it might have been the explosion.

I don't think this one was due to amps. There were no bands set up on stage at the time of the accident.

Re:It is not the volts (1)

jaavaaguru (261551) | about 5 years ago | (#29112579)

It's not the amps, its the ceiling collapsing and the large amount of water filling the room that will kill you.

Re:It is not the volts (5, Informative)

Renraku (518261) | about 5 years ago | (#29112587)

Most likely what happened was what's known as arc flash.

Arc flash is when metal is vaporized due to difference in potential between two objects, like phase to phase, or phase to ground. It's very dangerous to us humans because we burn easily, and because the vaporized metal tends to fly outward in a shotgun pattern.

An electrical breakdown in a large transformer can cause this internally, and as the live power works its way from the inside out, it can vaporize holes in the transformer casing. So you have boiling oil, vaporized copper/steel/etc, and a lot of live electricity trying to get back to earth ground.

This is why electrical engineering is very important. All it takes to cause this is someone disconnecting or connecting a line under the wrong load, or with no load at all.

Re:It is not the volts (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29112831)

Reminds me of this incident a while back in Florida, eventually popularized by YouTube: http://205.243.100.155/frames/longarc.htm#Blowup

The relief valves purging the boiling transformer oil (or BLEVE) that resulted from the overheating coils probably contributed to the extensive fire damage in that substation. A phase-to-phase short finally killed power to it, but it all began with a simple, untended failure of a couple of fuses...

Re:It is not the volts (5, Informative)

Whillowhim (1408725) | about 5 years ago | (#29112659)

Somewhat off topic, but...

While true and oft-repeated, the volt/amp comment ignores the fact that there is a definite relation between the two. It is easier to determine the exact effect on the body if you know how many amps went through the person's heart and/or other muscles, but ballpark figures with volts can give some idea of the danger. The body is essentially just a resistor, so there is a linear relation between volts and amps if you know where that voltage is applied and thus what the resistance of the body between those 2 points is. You know that with 12 volts it takes some ingenuity to kill someone, but 120 volts from a wall socket is dangerous if mishandled. 1200 volts will be fatal when applied directly to the skin almost anywhere. 12,000 volts will not only kill you, it will arc through small air gaps to do so (i.e. tasers, you don't get all of the claimed thousands of volts over the body, most is dissipated across the air gap or is regulated by the circuitry to keep the current low).

The way I look at it, amps give you a good idea of how dead you are. Volts gives you a measure of how bad something is trying to kill you.

Re:It is not the volts (3, Insightful)

scottv67 (731709) | about 5 years ago | (#29113141)

>12,000 volts will not only kill you,

I gotta call a little bullshit on this one. Back in my high school days, I used to mess around under the hoods of crappy cars to keep them running. I got zapped by "leaky" spark plug wires more than a few times. Automotive ignition systems (even 25 years ago) ran hotter than 12,000v and I am still alive to tell the tale.

Re:It is not the volts (1)

ls671 (1122017) | about 5 years ago | (#29113273)

In realty, it is watts X time = joules that goes through your body that kills you. In short, the amount of energy going through your body in a relative small amount of time.

Watts = Voltage X amperage

You need BOTH Voltage and amperage to kill you.

Spark plugs wires provide high voltage but they are unable to provide enough amperage thus energy to go along with it in order to kill you.

The V = RI formula doesn't apply in this case, spark plugs wire aren't able to provide sufficient I (amperage) in order to kill although your body would be able to take a lot more given its R (resistance) value. Spark plug devices choke, not being able to provide sufficient I (amperage) to kill you and to make the V = RI formula apply.

 

Re:It is not the volts (5, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 5 years ago | (#29112931)

Yeah, people love to say that. Except they forget that V = IR, or I = V/R. Since in a given accidental electrocution scenario your body's resistance isn't really a variable, it may be the amps that kill you, but it's the volts that cause them.

Re:It is not the volts (3, Funny)

Seedy2 (126078) | about 5 years ago | (#29113117)

It may be the amps that kill you, but the voltage is the bus they take to work.

Hrmmm.. (2, Interesting)

The Living Fractal (162153) | about 5 years ago | (#29112567)

To me this 'exploding transformer' seems strange. I mean, the transformers we use where I work are filled with non-explosive mineral oil. Something seriously bad must have happened to this transformer. I mean, so bad I can't even imagine. Looking at the amount of destruction I just don't understand how it's possible. Any electrical engineers out there who can offer some insight?

Re:Hrmmm.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29112627)

An exploding transformer is usually due to what we electrical engineers call a "cover story."

Re:Hrmmm.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29112705)

Not really. Sometimes, bad stuff happens - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkDCS8xeobg

Re:Hrmmm.. (1)

tanmanX (1275146) | about 5 years ago | (#29112735)

If they were really stupid or just unsafe and working with a live transformer, it could have shorted out with a dropped tool or something. Might have had an arc flash over in the transformer which could have vaporized the oil. I don't work on transformers, but I do work on electric motors, which are transformers with rotating secondary's.

Of course, if none of that is true, then i have no idea.

Re:Hrmmm.. (2, Interesting)

MartinSchou (1360093) | about 5 years ago | (#29112803)

Water is also rather non-explosive, but if you manage to contain a high temperature and pressure and then release it, it will behave in a rather explosive way.

The Mythbusters did an episode with a water heater, and they managed to give a midsized water heater something like 40 seconds of airtime.

Re:Hrmmm.. (1)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | about 5 years ago | (#29113123)

That and the exploding cement truck are the best Mythbusters episodes ever.

Re:Hrmmm.. (1)

false_cause (1013577) | about 5 years ago | (#29112871)

Perhaps the oil level became low and the phases ceased to be insulated from one-another causing a phase-to-phase arc flash. That will certainly detonate a transformer, though I don't know how the oil behaves at the temperatures it would reach in those conditions. Inrushing water could have boiled with explosive results when exposed to an arc flash, perhaps.

Re:Hrmmm.. (1)

gujo-odori (473191) | about 5 years ago | (#29112971)

Outside the building where I used to work in the 1980s, a transformer on a pole exploded, fell off the pole, and and went through the back window of a co-worker's car. She had just arrived at work and parked there a few minutes beforehand. She was a freaked-out mess, and the car was in even worse shape. The building entire building was plunged into complete darkness, the UPS failed to trip on, and the diesel generator didn't start, either. As this building was (and AFAIK still is) the primary data center for a major regional bank, that was, uh, bad.

So transformers do explode. As for the cause, I'll leave that to those who know more about them.

Re:Hrmmm.. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29112997)

Some types of transformer oil, break down to flammable gases when there is an internal fault. These faults result from such things as vibration wearing the insulation, or heat damage to the insulation. When the phase arcs to ground or phase to phase the usual by-products are hydrogen and acetylene. When the right concentrations are reached they explode. Most large transformers in the US have pressure sensors that try to de-energize the transformer when the gasses begin to build. This isn't always successful, and sometimes they explode. A large generator, such as a large hydro unit, next to the fault can cause the gasses to be generated very rapidly. This must be the case, as this is a standard precaution used for many years.

Re:Hrmmm.. (4, Informative)

sjames (1099) | about 5 years ago | (#29113029)

The explosion is from arc flash when the coils in the transformer short. The metal explosively transitions from solid to a mixture of plasma, gas, and liquid. The surrounding oil is then atomized by the explosion and so creates a huge fireball. Depending on just how unlucky you are, you can also end up with a metal fire after that (which a standard ABC extinguisher will NOT put out).

Re:Hrmmm.. (5, Interesting)

Sj0 (472011) | about 5 years ago | (#29113091)

You need to understand, electricity is heavy shit. If you're talking about a large transformer at high voltage, it can explode catastrophically.

Arc blast at low voltage [youtube.com]

The mill I work at has had several such explosions over the past decade. In our case, it was probably related to the ridiculous amounts of particulate pollution in the open area where our transformers sit causing heat build-up which caused a breakdown of insulation causing an arc flash causing an explosion(Measures have been taken to prevent future failures). Thankfully, the original plant engineers understood that explosions ARE a possible failure mode of transformers, and placed them in areas where it would be unlikely for collateral damage to occur. The Russian dipshit who put the transformer in a place where it could destroy a water bearing wall and kill 12 people is probably feeling pretty bad about himself right now.

Re:Hrmmm.. (1)

RedWizzard (192002) | about 5 years ago | (#29113171)

To me this 'exploding transformer' seems strange. I mean, the transformers we use where I work are filled with non-explosive mineral oil. Something seriously bad must have happened to this transformer. I mean, so bad I can't even imagine. Looking at the amount of destruction I just don't understand how it's possible. Any electrical engineers out there who can offer some insight?

Perhaps the transformers they use in a power station are not the same as the transformers they use at your work?

Video of an actual blast (4, Informative)

srk (49331) | about 5 years ago | (#29112603)

Re:Video of an actual blast (0, Redundant)

squidinkcalligraphy (558677) | about 5 years ago | (#29112987)

How is this different to the videos linked in the summary? +5 informative?

Re:Video of an actual blast (0, Troll)

bogaboga (793279) | about 5 years ago | (#29113041)

Blame the Chechens.

Suddenly (2, Funny)

eclectro (227083) | about 5 years ago | (#29112617)

The homeless get a nice raise.

In post-Soviet Russia... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29112619)

...dam breaks YOU!

Bond (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29112625)

Bond. James Bond.

Damn my impressionable mind... (1)

WoRLoKKeD (1142351) | about 5 years ago | (#29112647)

Is it bad that my first thought was "Time to leave, Doctor Doak."?

Oh great, a Russian power plant disaster (1)

scourfish (573542) | about 5 years ago | (#29112775)

Now Greenpeace is going to have to protest hydroelectric dams too...

Re:Oh great, a Russian power plant disaster (2, Informative)

Sj0 (472011) | about 5 years ago | (#29113099)

They already do.

As Kermit says, "It's not easy being green." (0, Troll)

bagboy (630125) | about 5 years ago | (#29112781)

NT

Time Exchange Rate (5, Funny)

cdrudge (68377) | about 5 years ago | (#29112791)

From the BBC article:

RusHydro, the operator of the power station, said the damage would run into "billions of roubles" and would take several months to repair.

From the summary:

The damages will take years to repair.

Apparently the exchange rate between countries is so bad these days that a few months just doesn't last nearly as much as it once did.

Obligatory Star Trek Reference (1)

Bosconian (158140) | about 5 years ago | (#29112845)

Hikaru Sulu: An "incident."

Janice Rand: Do we report this, sir?

Hikaru Sulu: Are you kidding?

Re:Obligatory Star Trek Reference (1)

Chrutil (732561) | about 5 years ago | (#29113047)

Funny the first thing I was thinking was - Oh crap. Praxis blew up.

Pictures... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29112873)

EnglishRussia.com [englishrussia.com] has some pretty stunning pictures of the damage.

Red Storm Rising (3, Interesting)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | about 5 years ago | (#29112909)

Interesting that this got tagged !redstormrising. I wouldn't have though about it without that tag, it's a relatively obscure reference to something that happened in the beginning of the book (terrorists blow up an oil refinery in Russia, sparking WWIII). It is a pretty decent book though, unlike all of the later drivel that author pushed out.

Another Chernobyl (-1, Flamebait)

Trip6 (1184883) | about 5 years ago | (#29113049)

Why do these mass death incidents happen to Russia? I know they drink a lot...

The Russians (4, Funny)

GrahamCox (741991) | about 5 years ago | (#29113101)

I'll say one thing for the Russians, when they have a disaster they have a really big, proper, all-out disaster. They don't do things by half there, unlike the half-assed yanks with their Three-Mile Island and whatnot.

Quote (3, Insightful)

teddaman (854135) | about 5 years ago | (#29113227)

"when Ivan has an industrial accident he doesn't fuck around" Tom Clancy - Red Storm Rising

In related news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29113253)

...SovNews reports that the explosion did not hinder the smelting plant's capability to pollute the river. The smelting plant's officials vowed to ramp up pollution production in spite of this incident, in honor of their fallen comrades.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>