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Wednesday, 16 January, 2002, 14:11 GMT
Explosion furnace to be rebuilt
Corus plant explosion
The company hopes to have production back to normal
The ruined blast furnace at the Corus Port Talbot steelworks, which fatally exploded in November, is to be rebuilt at a cost of 75m.

Three workers died following the incident and a dozen more were injured when the explosion ripped through the number five blast furnace on 8 November.

The steel giant has decided to bring the ruined facility back into operation after dismantling it, in a move which will see the plant return to normality January 2003.

Furnace facts
Produces liquid iron
Operates at 1,500 degrees Celsius
Transferred to steelmaking unit
Production at Llanwern
Used for body panels, suspension systems, drinks cans, domestic equipment
Facility expected back online in January 2003
Investigators are deploying a remotely-operated camera inside the furnace which, 10 weeks on, remains far too hot to enter.

South Wales Police in conjunction with the Health & Safety Executive launched an inquiry into the cause of the incident and Corus is undertaking its own investigation.

Temperatures inside have remained well over 1000 degrees celsius despite the company pouring in 1000 tonnes of cold water in December - but the investigators believe they may be able to enter the structure next week.

They have been taking evidence from steelworkers who witnessed the blast, and the teams are to analyse computer data from the furnace control room and examine the ruined furnace itself.

It is the subject of a 75m insurance claim, the company revealed.

Blast victims

Rugby player Andrew Hutin, 20, Stephen Galsworthy, 25, and Len Radford, 53, died in the explosion.

Five workers are still receiving treatment in Morriston Hospital in Swansea and Mr Morgan said they were making a "miraculous recovery."

First Minister Rhodri Morgan
Rhodri Morgan has wanted assurances production will continue
First Minister Rhodri Morgan is to meet Corus Chief Executive Tony Pedder later in January to discuss the future of steel production at the Port Talbot plant.

But, after fears the rebuild would prove too costly, the commitment from Corus - announced on its website - will come as a welcome relief. Managing director Dr Mark Carr said: "After a difficult period for our employees and the local community, I am delighted to start 2002 by announcing this decision to rebuild the badly damaged No 5 Blast Furnace."

"This is a major engineering project which will return Port Talbot works to normal operations as soon as possible.

"This investment complements other business improvement programmes that we are undertaking to secure the ongoing viability of our operations in south Wales."

Corus employs 8,000 people in Wales and 3,000 at Port Talbot, which escaped widespread cuts when the company axe fell on 6,050 posts around the UK.

BBC Wales's Rebecca John
"The news of the new furnace has been welcomed"
See also:

15 Dec 01 | Wales
Corus furnace probe 'progress'
12 Nov 01 | Wales
Third Corus blast worker dies
09 Nov 01 | Wales
Steelworker killed in explosion
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