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Sayano-Shushenskaya defendants face new charges

KHAKASSIA, Russia 2/3/12 (PennWell) -- The continued investigation of events leading to the deaths of 75 people at Russia's Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric plant has led to a new round of charges for seven defendants, sources report.

An explosion at this 6,400-MW plant in early August 2009 caused the turbine room to flood. The accident killed 71 people and destroyed three of the power station’s 10 turbine-generator units, according to plant owner RusHydro.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered an investigation into the accident, after Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin said the repairs that were under way when the ploant flooded were being performed by a fraudulent company.

A report released in October 2009 assigned blame for the failure to several people. The inquiry was completed in March 2011 and resulted in charges against seven people for safety breaches.

The seven chief executives and officials were charged with violation of labor safety rules (Article 143, Pt. 2 of Russia's Criminal Code) in 2010, but those cases were only valid for two years given the country's statute of limitations.

The charges filed under Article 143 included a maximum four-year prison sentence. The new charges could carry up to seven years.

"The defendants will face a new charge under Article 216 for violation of safety rules in mining, construction and other types of operations that entailed the death of two and more people through negligence," says investigation committee spokesman Vladimir Markin. "Therefore, there are no reasons to terminate their prosecution."

Meanwhile, restoration work on the plant continues. RusHydro installed the facility's first all-new generating unit in December 2011. Rehabilitation is expected to be complete in 2014.

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