Callide disaster shows urgent need to invest in maintenance
Callide Power Station near Biloela in Central Queensland spent a week in the headlines earlier this month as a succession of incidents exposed the dangerous failure to invest in maintenance at the aging site.
On Monday 31 October, Callide’s C3 unit went offline due to a structural failure, with the collapse of the cooling plant likely to leave the unit out of action until next year. Issues with the unit’s timber cooling tower had been identified in 2017, with warnings that further deterioration would cause collapse. Despite this, repairs were not scheduled to occur until an upgrade project set for January 2023 – too late to prevent the dangerous incident.
The day after C3’s collapse, Callide’s B2 unit tripped during scheduled testing, and on Friday 4 November, the B1 unit tripped. With the C4 unit offline since an explosion in May 2021 caused catastrophic damage, this meant that the power station spent several hours completely offline.
The high level of risk posed to the health and safety of workers at the power station due to these incidents is unacceptable, and so far only luck has prevented them from causing serious injuries.
Workers at Callide Power Station should not be forced to put up with an unsafe workplace as they continue to provide power to Queensland until the site’s scheduled closure in 2028.
The Queensland Government’s plan to phase out its state-owned coal-fired power stations by 2035 must not be seen as an invitation to neglect them and run them into the ground.
Trust between the government, management, and workers is essential for a genuinely consultative and collaborative approach to navigating the enormous changes and challenges ahead for Biloela, and for other communities facing a similar future. Investing in power station maintenance is a critical element of building that trust.