Baghdad Power Plant Still Damaged, Report Says

By Dana Hedgpeth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 19, 2007

After the U.S. government spent millions of dollars to restore parts of a major power station in Baghdad, the plant is still not fully operational because the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity has not properly operated and maintained it, according to a report released yesterday by an oversight agency.

The Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction said in the report that a steam turbine at the Dora Power Plant, which is one of the main sources of electricity for the Baghdad area, was rebuilt more than a year ago but has not been put to use. And another turbine suffered a "catastrophic failure" in August 2006, followed by one in April that has left it out of commission.

Bechtel National of San Francisco was awarded a $91 million contract to rehabilitate the two turbines at the Dora plant. It also won an $80 million deal to train workers at the plant and other electrical projects in Iraq.

"The U.S. reconstruction effort has invested significant sums into this important project and it wasn't maintained," said Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the inspector general. The inspector general's office has looked into "whether work the U.S. has done to infrastructure is being maintained, and in this case the answer is no," he said.

About $4.5 billion has been allocated to restore electricity in Iraq, and much of that money has been spent. But the country's power plants are still not producing electricity at nearly the rates set as targets by reconstruction officials after the U.S. invasion in 2003. In the second quarter, the country generated an average 4,231 megawatts per day, compared with the U.S. goal of 6,000 megawatts. If the two turbines at Dora were working, Bowen said, Iraq would have electricity exceeding prewar levels for the first time in more than a year.

Baghdad, which had power virtually around the clock during Saddam Hussein's rule, now receives less electricity than the rest of the country. According to the inspector general, the capital got four to eight hours of electricity a day in the past quarter.

Bowen said there are plans to repair the two turbines and get them working this summer.

In the report, inspectors said they found that the turbine that failed twice also shut down more than 100 times in 12 months because repeated power surges flipped off circuit breakers. Generators were overloaded. There was no maintenance performed on machines. Filters were clogged with debris and parts were not lubricated, making them unusable. Insulators were damaged by bullets and shrapnel. Officials said they were "at times surprised that Iraqi maintainers could keep the plant running in its current state of disrepair."

The report also said that workers were not trained to repair parts, that absenteeism was high, and that employees who had worked during Hussein's rule were "prone to jury-rigging equipment" to keep it operating. There was also not enough money the plant's budget to buy parts in emergencies.

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