JERUSALEM (Feb. 5)
A massive power failure which blacked out the entire country through the midday hours today was caused by a “one in one hundred thousand fault at the central power plant near Yavne, between Rehovot and Ashdod, Energy Minister Yitzhak Modal said tonight. He said he felt no need to appoint a commission of inquiry or take other drastic action because this was a fluke of the kind which plunged New York into darkness in 1977.”Every system can break down,” Modai said.
The power failure meant no electricity for cooking lunches, traffic snarls as lights went out, and an enforced layoff for many hundreds of thousands of industrial workers at plants which do not have their own reserve generators. In most parts of the country the blackout lasted for about two to two-and-a-half hours from 12 noon. But in the south, it went on until close to 4 p.m.
An Israel Electric Corp. spokesman said tonight that failure occurred when a short circuit at the Yavne transformer tripped safety devices that shut down turbo-generators of the main power stations in Ashdod, Tel Aviv and Haifa. The sudden outage caused. a thunderous explosion at the Haifa station which gave rise to initial rumors of sabotage. But the Electric Corp. spokesman said the blackout was caused by a technical breakdown.
The last time such a nationwide power failure occurred was nine years ago, Modai said. He stated that he would instruct that a study be carried out to determine the cost of the failure in terms of production lost; and on that basis he would decide whether the government ought to invest in new equipment designed to minimize still further the risk of such failure occurring. He seemed to indicate, though, that the equipment concerned is very expensive and that the government would be unlikely to purchase it.