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Human Error Caused Plant Bowen Blast, Says Georgia Power

The April explosion at the coal-fired power plant outside Cartersville in Bartow County that injured three resulted from a failure to comply with procedures and communicate.

Human error led to the explosion last month at Plant Bowen, Georgia Power officials say.

Three people sustained minor injuries in the April 4 blast just outside Cartersville in Bartow County. The 4 p.m. explosion, described by witnesses as sounding like a "sonic boom" or earthquake, shook buildings and rattled windows miles away.

The reason it happened: workers failed to comply with procedures and properly communicate, Georgia Power spokesman Mark Williams told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Employees were beginning a maintenance outage on coal-fired Bowen's Unit 2 just before the blast, which significantly damaged the control room for Units 1 and 2 and the switchyard, where electricity is converted to the proper voltage before being transported onto the grid.

"A multi-step procedure to purge hydrogen from the generator was underway, but the process used didn't comply with procedures and there was a communications breakdown," Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft told The Daily Tribune News. A combustible mixture of hydrogen and air exploded as a result.

The blast briefly shut down Bowen's four units, and Units 1 and 2 remain offline. Georgia Power's internal investigation continues, as does an Occupational Safety and Health Administration probe, but no employees have been disciplined, according to the AJC.

Atlanta-based Southern Company, Georgia Power's parent company, has brought in a team to review the incident, enhance safety measures and implement new procedures at natural gas, coal and nuclear plants across its territory, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

Georgia Power, as regulated monopoly, could ask the state for permission to recoup the costs of the shutdown from its customers, but hasn't yet determined if it will do so, AJC reports. 

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Don May 06, 2013 at 04:48 PM
"Georgia Power, as regulated monopoly, could ask the state for permission to recoup the costs of the shutdown from its customers, but hasn't yet determined if it will do so, AJC reports." Why should end customers pay for damage they had no blame in. As a publicly traded company let investors bear the costs.

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