Corus is to rebuild the blast furnace at Port Talbot that exploded last November killing three people.
The furnace, which will cost £75m to rebuild and is the subject of an insurance claim by the steel maker, will begin operating again in January 2003.
The firm will start dismantling the blast furnace immediately, although an investigation by South Wales Police and the Health and Safety Executive into the cause of the explosion is continuing, said a Corus spokesman. ‘The investigation is on-going, but we can get on with dismantling everything except the blast furnace itself, such as the building and services,’ he said.
Detectives working on the South Wales Police investigation said this week they had gained access to the scene of the explosion. The furnace had to be cooled down to allow investigators to get close to the site, but this quenching work is now complete. A hole has been cut into the side of the furnace, and a remote-control camera used to allow inspectors to see inside the structure and decide whether it is safe to enter, said Detective Sergeant Mike Cranswick, the deputy senior officer on the investigation.
‘It has taken us a long time to get this far, because the furnace has been so hot and quite unstable. It made sense to send the camera in first, as it was potentially unsafe and we could have risked damaging the evidence.’
Three men died and five were left critically injured when the number five blast furnace at the steelworks blew apart, showering them with molten metal. Corus announced it believed a freak explosion deep within the molten core of the furnace was to blame for the accident.
The steel maker said it will take the opportunity of the rebuild to install equipment into the structure that will reduce its emissions. This equipment, which is already fitted to its number four blast furnace, sucks out the fumes as the molten iron flows on to the cast house floor.
Once the furnace is back on stream it will produce 1.5m tonnes of iron per year, giving the Port Talbot works an annual output of 3.4m tonnes.