Explosion at East Iceland aluminium smelter

Members of the Iceland Fire Authority are on their way to East Iceland to investigate what caused Saturday’s explosion at the Alcoa aluminium smelter in Reydarfjordur. Foreign experts are also expected today or tomorrow. It is already clear that the investigation could take months.

The explosion took place just after 17.00 on Saturday in the smelter’s electricity substation. The explosion caused a large fire and cut off electricity to the whole factory. Nobody was injured in the blast.

According to Alcoa spokesman, Erna Indridadottir, nothing is yet known about the cause of the explosion, or exactly how much damage has been done. It seems likely that the investigation will take several months and that an electrical component known as a rectifier will need to be sent overseas for analysis, Visir.is reports.

Indridadottir said that an explosion of this type is extremely rare and that the manufacturers of the rectifier will need to get involved in the investigation.

She added that it took a long time to get aluminium production going again after the power cut; but that it is now running at full capacity again, luckily. If an aluminium smelter is left without power for too long, the molten metal can harden in the machinery, which needs to be replaced at the cost of tens of millions of dollars.

Gudmundur Helgi Sigfusson from the Fjardarbyggd fire brigade told reporters that the operation went well, all things considered. Adding that given all the oil on the premises, things could have gone a lot worse. It was, however, a very big fire.