Construction, construction

 The Boguchany hydroelectric power station on the Angara River has started to generate electricity  10/25/2012, 07:03

Lena Shkarubo
general project manager
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Construction, construction
Photography by Nikita Khnyunin

On October 15th 2012, the first generating units at the Boguchany Hydroelectric Power Station (HPS) on the Angara River were launched. The Angara River was first dammed on October 25th, 25 years ago. Construction started more than 30 years ago but was suspended in the 1990s, after the breakup of the USSR. The project remained mothballed until 2006. Sib.fm correspondents watched the launch tests and found out where the electricity first produced by the station will go.

Boguchany HPS is the fourth hydro-plant on the Angara River (after Irkutsk, Bratsk and Ust-Ilimsk). It is situated in the Kezhemsky District of the Krasnoyarsk Krai (region). Construction workers call it the «last of the Mohicans». Indeed, in Russia today there are no similar projects under construction.

Preparations for the power station began on site in autumn 1974, when specialists from the Bratsk HPS Construction Company arrived in the small settlement of Kodinskaya. The settlement would later become the town of Kodinsk, where more than 15 thousand people currently reside. Their work on the Ust-Ilimsk HPS was coming to an end and it was time to move on to new projects.

«Back then, there were two construction methods in use: the Soviet method and the Bratsk system,» long-time residents remember, revealing the influence on construction of workers who began to master Siberian rivers in the middle of the last century. «It’s about 300 kilometres from Kodinsk to Bratsk; they built a good road through the taiga. Although later everything fell into decay.»

«Later» was the era of perestroika, when it seemed like everything was falling apart. First to fall apart was the construction budget for the Boguchany station. The budget only existed thanks to savings made at hydroelectric power stations further up the Angara River, and it was cut to a minimum. In 1994, construction work in Kodinsk was stopped altogether and the site itself was «mothballed».

However, a level of structural safety for the station needed to be maintained. No one knew for sure how long this situation would last. Everything was in disarray. In the 1980s, 6000 people worked on the station, but after the mothballing only a tenth remained. These people had come to Siberia from all over Russia. They had come for the sake of the bright idea that building a hydroelectric power station would give future generations the electricity to create a technological breakthrough, maybe even to fly to space again. However, they were faced with absolute uncertainty.

From 1994 to 2006, during the shutdown period, about 600 people worked at Boguchany HPS. When construction was resumed, this figure increased to almost 4000.

A long report in the latest edition of the regional newspaper «Soviet Priangarye» is devoted to the upcoming launch of the station. On a double-page spread is an interview with Nikolai Tereshkov, the general manager of the Public Company Boguchany HPS, in which he talks about what has been done and what will happen next:

«When the first unit was launched at idle speed on September 25th, I was asked: ‘Well, Nikolai Nikolayevich, after 30 years is the wait finally over?’ I answered that if we had just been waiting for 30 years then we would have to build for another 30 years. People have been working for all these years, bringing us closer and closer to the launch of the station. I want to thank all the people who didn’t leave when everything came to a standstill.»

When work resumed, the station was around 58% complete. It was completely «demothballed» in March 2006.

On the construction site, the first four generating units had already been assembled and embedded in concrete. A contract has been negotiated with the company «Power Machines» for the delivery of a total of nine units. According to initial plans, the station was to have 12 units. When this number was adjusted, provisions were made to use the remaining space to drain water from the reservoir.

At the beginning of autumn, pre-launch testing began at Boguchany HPS. Generating units 1, 2 and 3 were running at idle speed, not producing any energy. Specialists evaluated the condition of the units’ components and regulation systems, and examined their working conditions: vibration, temperature and so on. It takes about two weeks to test one machine.

According to tradition, a coin is placed, on its edge, on top of a unit that is being launched at idle speed. If it doesn’t fall over, it means that the tests were successful and everything works perfectly.

On October 25th, 2012 it will be 25 years since the Angara River was first dammed. The artist Klara Novikova came to Kodinsk to congratulate its residents and give four concerts at the local cultural centre. A helipad was quickly prepared for the expected visit of President Vladimir Putin. However, Putin did not come; he participated in the launch of the first two units through a video link-up. The day before, the station was cleaned from top to bottom.

The Boguchany aluminium factory should be the main consumer of energy generated by the Boguchany HPS, taking up to 50% of the station’s total production. The remaining output will enter the Joint Siberian Power Network, for which electrical grid infrastructure will be constructed in the Krasnoyarsk Krai and the Irkutsk Region.

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«The one thing that gave us confidence was that it would be impossible to completely abandon the site when so much work had already been completed,» said Dmitri Sarikiyan, one of the construction workers who has worked at the Boguchany HPS since 1981. «When the decision was finally made, everyone here was so happy. You could say that we have been waiting for this moment for 30 years. That’s an unforgettable event in anyone’s life. And if you’ve put even a tiny bit of work into it yourself, then it’s a celebration.»

 This publication has been translated by experts from "Monoton" translation agency.
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