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Bad bolts shut down dam

Trouble in turbine unit closes Wuskwatim for several days

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The Wuskwatim dam near Thompson has been shut down temporarily, a year after it began operating.

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The Wuskwatim dam near Thompson has been shut down temporarily, a year after it began operating. Photo Store

MANITOBA Hydro's newest generating station has been shut down this week until at least Saturday after a routine inspection found faulty bolts in one of the dam's three turbine units.

Hydro spokesman Glenn Schneider said officials made a decision to shut down the other two turbines at Wuskwatim so all the bolts can be replaced in each unit.

Schneider said the bolts are in a section where water is discharged -- the discharge ring -- after it passes through the turbine.

"We are concerned about the bolts and the problem they might cause," Schneider said, referring to a similar situation in March 1992 at the Grand Rapids generating station when the head cover of a turbine blew off and flooded the structure.

Wuskwatim started producing electricity a year ago under a partnership with the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation (NCN) near Thompson. The generating station is located on the Burntwood River west of Thompson.

Critics says the dam was built at the worst time as electricity demand and export income forecasts have fallen short of expectations. Hydro built Wuskwatim for $1.8 billion, not for the $900 million first forecast. Plus, export prices for Wuskwatim's power output have averaged less than half Hydro's forecast, resulting in the prospect of the dam losing $100 million a year.

Schneider said the faulty bolts were discovered several days ago during an inspection of the generator unit, which had been in service for 8,000 hours.

He would not speculate on why the bolts had weakened.

Schneider added having Wuskwatim out of commission will not affect the supply of power to southern Manitoba as this time of year typically sees low demand.

"It's a good thing we caught it when we did," he said. "It's better to discover it now than in a catastrophic failure."

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 25, 2013 A12

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