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Three Gorges Dam
Three Gorges Dam
Official name 长江三峡水利枢纽工程
Impounds Yangtze River
Length 2,335 metres (7,661 ft)
Height 185 metres (607 ft)[1]
Width (at base) 115 metres (377 ft) Crest: 40 metres (131 ft)
Construction began December 14, 1994
Opening date 2011 Est.
Construction cost 180 billion yuan (26 billion U.S. dollars)
Maintained by China Three Gorges Dam Project
Reservoir information
Creates Three Gorges Reservoir
Capacity 39.3 km3 (31,900,000 acre·ft)
Catchment area 1,000,000 km2 (390,000 sq mi)
Surface area 1,045 km2 (403 sq mi)
Power generation information
Turbines 32
Installed capacity 22,500 MW
Annual generation 100,000 GWh Est.
Bridge information
Carries 177
Toll ¥10.00
ID number 7649
Geographical Data
Coordinates 30°49′48″N 111°0′36″E / 30.83°N 111.01°E / 30.83; 111.01

The Three Gorges Dam (simplified Chinese: traditional Chinese: pinyin: Chángjiāng Sānxiá ) is a hydroelectric river dam that spans the Yangtze River in the town of Sandouping, located in the Yiling District of Yichang, at the Hubei province, China. It is the world's largest electricity-generating plant of any kind.[2]

The dam body was completed in 2006. Except for a ship lift, all of the originally planned components of the project were completed on October 30, 2008 when the 26th generator was brought into commercial operation. Currently, it contains 26 completed generators in the shore power plant, each with a capacity of 700 MW.[3] Six additional generators in the underground power plant are being installed and are not expected to become fully operational until around 2011. Coupling the dam's 32 main generators with 2 smaller generators (50 MW each) to power the plant itself, the total electric generating capacity of the dam will eventually reach 22,500 MW.[4] The project produces hydroelectricity, increases the river's navigation capacity, and reduces the potential for floods downstream by providing flood storage space. From completion until September 2009 the dam has generated 348.4 TWh of electricity, covering more than one third of its project cost.[5]

The project management and the Chinese state regard the project as an historic engineering, social and economic success,[6] with the design of state of the art large turbines,[7] and a move toward the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.[8] However, the dam has also flooded archaeological and cultural sites and displaced some 1.3 million people, and is causing significant ecological changes, including an increased risk of landslides.[9] The building of the dam has been a controversial topic both in China and abroad.[10]

Contents

Project history

In his poem "Swimming" (1956), engraved on the 1954 Flood Memorial in Wuhan, Mao Zedong envisions "walls of stone" to be erected upstream.[11]

The dam was originally envisioned by Sun Yat-sen in The International Development of China, in 1919.[12] It was stated that the construction of a dam capable of generating 30 million horsepower (22,371 MW of electricity) was possible downstream of the Three Gorges.[12] In 1932, the Nationalist government, led by Chiang Kai-shek, began preliminary work on plans for a dam in the Three Gorges. Then, in 1939, Japanese military forces occupied Yichang and surveyed the area. A design, the Otani plan, was completed for the dam in anticipation of a Japanese victory over China.[13] In 1944, involvement from the United States began when the then Bureau of Reclamation chief designing engineer, John L. Savage surveyed the area and drew up a dam proposal for the 'Yangtze River Project'.[14]. Around 54 Chinese engineers were sent to the U.S. for training. Some exploration, survey, economic study, and design work was done, but the government, in the midst of the Chinese Civil War, halted work in 1947.

After the 1949 communist victory, the leader Mao Zedong supported the project, but the Gezhouba Dam project was begun first, and economic problems including the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution slowed progress. In 1958, after the Hundred Flowers Campaign, some engineers who spoke out against the project were imprisoned.[15]

In 1956, Mao Zedong wrote a poem titled "Swimming" about his fascination with a dam on the Yangtze River after the 1954 Yangtze River Floods. Below are lines 15-17:[16]

Walls of stone will stand upstream to the west
To hold back Wushan's clouds and rain
Till a smooth lake rises in the narrow gorges

During the 1980s, plans were revived. The dam was approved by the National People's Congress in 1992: out of 2,633 delegates, 1,767 voted in favour, 177 voted against, 664 forfeited, and 25 members did not vote.[17] The construction started on December 14, 1994.[1] The dam was expected to be fully operational in 2009, but due to additional projects such as the underground power plant with six additional generators, and due to the complexity of the ship lift, the dam is not expected to become fully operational until about 2011.[15] The dam raised the water level the third time to 172.5 metres by the end of 2008.[18]

Map of the location of the Three Gorges Dam, Sandouping, Yichang, Hubei Province, China and major cities along the Yangtze River


Project layout and scale

Model of the Three Gorges Dam including the dam body, the spillway and the ship lift.
Model of the Three Gorges Dam showing the ship lift and the ship lock.

The figure on the right is taken while facing upstream of the river. The dam body in the middle left of the figure was divided into the left side (the right one-third of the dam body in this figure), the spill way (the middle of the dam body), and the right side (the left one-third of the dam body in this figure). The underground power plant under construction is to the left of the dam body, hidden in the mountains. The dam wall is made of concrete and is about 2,309 metres (7,575 ft) long, and 185 metres (607 ft) high. The wall is 115 metres (377 ft) thick on the bottom and 40 metres (131.2 ft) thick on top. The project used 27,200,000 cubic metres (35,600,000 cu yd) of concrete, 463,000 tonnes of steel, enough to build 63 Eiffel Towers, and moved about 102,600,000 cubic metres (134,200,000 cu yd) of earth.[19] The ship lift is to the right of the dam body with its own designated waterway. The ship locks, which can be seen clearly in the second figure, are to the right (northeast) of the ship lift.

When the water level is maximum at 175 metres (574 ft) over sea level (110 metres or 361 feet above the river level downstream), the reservoir created by the Three Gorges Dam is about 660 kilometres (410 mi) in length and 1.12 kilometres (0.70 mi) in width on average, and contains 39.3 km3 (31,900,000 acre·ft) of water. The total surface area of the reservoir is 1,045 km². The reservoir flooded a total area of 632 km² of land, enough to cover Singapore, compared to the 1,350 km² of reservoir created by the Itaipu Dam.[20]

Economics

When finished, the project will have cost 180 billion yuan, over 20 billion yuan less than the initial estimated budget of 203.9 billion yuan, just under 30 billion USD. This is because the calculation accounts for the effect of inflation, and the lower costs are attributed to a low inflation rate in recent years.[21] Until the end of 2008, the total investment reached 148.365 billion yuan, among which 64.613 billion yuan was spent on construction, 68.557 billion yuan on the relocation of affected residents, and 15.195 billion yuan on the interests of financing.[22] It is estimated that the cost of construction will be recovered when the dam has generated 1,000 TWh of electricity, which is estimated to sell for 250 billion yuan. Cost recovery is expected to occur ten years after the dam starts full operation.[23]

Sources for funding include the Three Gorges Dam Construction Fund, profits from the Gezhouba Dam, policy loans from the China Development Bank, loans from domestic and foreign commercial banks, corporate bonds, and revenue from Three Gorges Dam before and after it is fully operational, with additional charges for electricity contributing to the Three Gorges Construction Fund. The additional charges are as follows: Every province receiving power from the Three Gorges Dam has to pay an additional charge of ¥7.00 per MWh. Provinces that will not receive power from the Three Gorges Dam have to pay an additional charge of ¥4.00 per MWh. Tibet does not have to pay any additional money.[24]

Electrical power generation and distribution

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Total generating capacity

Electricity production in China by source. Compare: The fully completed Three Gorges dam will contribute about 100 TWh of generation per year.      thermofossil      hydroelectric      nuclear

The Three Gorges Dam is the world’s largest hydroelectric power station by total capacity, which will be 22,500 MW.[12] It will have 34 generators: 32 will be main generators, each with a capacity of 700 MW, and the other two will be plant power generators, each with capacity of 50 MW. Among those 32 main generators, 14 are installed in the north side of the dam, 12 in the south side, and the remaining six in the underground power plant in the mountain south of the dam. After completion, the expected annual electricity generation will be over 100 TWh,[25] 18% more than the originally predicted 84.7 TWh, since six generators were added in 2002.

Generators

Each of the main generators weighs about 6,000 tonnes and is designed to produce at least 700 MW of power. The designed head of the generator is 80.6 m. The flow rate varies between 600 m3/s and 950 m3/s depending on the head available. The Three Gorges Dam project uses Francis turbines. The diameter of each turbine is 9.7/10.4 m (VGS design/Alstom's design). It rotates at a speed of 75 rpm. The normal rated power of the generator is 778 MVA, with a maximum power of 840 MVA and a power factor of 0.9. The generator produces electrical power at 20 kV. The outer diameter of the generator stator is 21.4/20.9 m. The inner diameter is 18.5/18.8 m. The height of the stator is 3.1/3 m. It is the biggest stator in the world. The load at the bearing is 5050/5500 tonnes. The average efficiency of the generators is over 94%, and the highest is 96.5%.[26]

Three Gorges Dam Francis Turbine

The generators are manufactured by two joint ventures. One of them includes Alstom, ABB, Kvaerner, and the Chinese company Haerbin Motor. The other includes Voith, General Electric, Siemens (abbreviated as VGS), and the Chinese company Oriental Motor. The technology transfer agreement was signed together with the contract. Most of the generators are water-cooled. Some newer ones are air-cooled, which are simpler in design and manufacture and are easier to maintain.[27]

Here is a video animation of the Three Gorges Dam generators.[2]

Generator installation progress

The total capacity of the plant is currently at 18.30 GW. The 14 generators in the north side of the dam have already been installed. The first one (No. 2) started to power on July 10, 2003. The last one (No. 9) started to power on September 7, 2005. All of the 14 generators first ran to full power (9,800 MW) on October 18, 2006 after the water level had been raised to 156 m.[28]

The 12 generators in the south side of the dam have already been installed. The first generator (No. 22) in the south side of the dam started working on June 11, 2007. The last generator (No. 15) on the south side of the dam was completed and brought to the power grid on October 30, 2008.[3] The sixth generator in the south side (No. 17) started working on December 18, 2007. It brought the total capacity of the dam to 14.1 GW, surpassing the generating capacity of Itaipu (14.0 GW), to become the largest hydroelectric power plant in the world. The seventh generator in the south side (No. 17) started working on December 27, 2007. The eighth generator in the south side (No. 24) started working on April 25, 2008.[29] The ninth generator in the south side (No. 19) started working on June 18, 2008.[30] The tenth generator in the south side (No. 16) started working on July 2, 2008.[31] The eleventh generator in the south side (No. 23) started working on August 19, 2008.[32]

Added to the project in 2002, the underground power plant and its six generators are still under construction.[33][34]

Electricity generation

Three Gorges Dam annual power output
Yangtze River flow rate comparing to the dam intake capacity

Up to September 16, 2009, the Three Gorges Dam Project had generated 348.4 TWh of electricity,[35] more than one-third of the 1,000 TWh it needs to generate to cover the cost (see Economics).[36] With 18,300 MW installed capacity, the generation capacity of the Three Gorges Dam Project is about 4,300 MW more than that of the Itaipu Dam. In July 2008, the Three Gorges Dam generated 10.3 TWh of electricity, the first time it has generated more than 10 TWh in a month.[37] On June 30, 2009, after the Yangtze River flow rate increased to over 24,000 m3/s, all the 26 main generators and the two smaller supporting generators were switched on, producing 16,100 MW of power, which is less than the maximum capacity, 18,300 MW, because the head available during flood season is less than the required to reach the maximum capacity.[38] During a flood that occurred in early August 2009, the Three Gorges Dam's generators reached their design maximum output of 18,300 MW the first time for a short period, due to the elevated upstream water level and the large river flow.[39]

During dry season from November to May, the Three Gorges Dam power output is limited by the Yangtze River's flow rate, as seen from the diagrams on the right. During the flood season when there is enough flow, the power output is limited by the plant generating capacity. The maximum possible power-output curves were calculated based on the average flow rate at the dam site, assuming the water level is at 175 m and the plant gross efficiency is 90.15%. The actual power output in 2008 was obtained based on the monthly electricity sent to the grid. (The data is from the State Grid Corporation.)[40][41] There are several reasons why the actual power output is significantly lower than the maximum power output. First, the dam was not operating at 175 m for most of 2008, thus the water flow though the dam has less potential energy to produce electricity. During the flood season, in order to make room for flooding, the dam lowered the water level to 145 m. Second, a few generators were being installed in 2008; thus the plant did not reach its current capacity until the end of the year. Also, the number might be slightly smaller than the total electricity generated in the table below because the diagrams on the right are based on the electricity sent to the power grid, while the table is based on total electricity generated.

Annual Production of Electricity
Year Number of
installed units
TWh
2003 6 8.607
2004 11 39.155
2005 14 49.090
2006 14 49.250
2007 21 61.600
2008 26 80.812[42]
2009 26 79.47[43]
Total 26(32) 367.984

Power distribution

The electricity generated by the Three Gorges Dam project was sold to the State Grid Corporation and China Southern Power Grid at a flat rate of ¥250 per MWh ($35.7 US) until July 2, 2008. The current price of electricity is different, depending on which province the electricity is sold to, ranging from ¥230.6 per MWh to ¥311.1 per MWh.[44] Nine provinces and two cities consume power from the dam, including Shanghai.[45]

The Three Gorges Dam project's power distribution and transmission infrastructure cost about 34.387 billion Yuan. It was completed in December 2007, one year ahead of schedule.[46]

Power is sent in three directions. The 500 kV DC transmission line to the East China Grid has a capacity of 7,200 MW. There are three 500 kV DC transmission lines: HVDC Three Gorges-Shanghai (3,000 MW), HVDC Three Gorges-Changzhou (3,000 MW), and HVDC Gezhouba - Shanghai (1,200 MW). The 500 kV AC transmission lines to the Central China Grid have a total capacity of 12,000 MW. The 500 kV DC transmission line HVDC Three Gorges-Guangdong to the South China Grid has a capacity of 3,000 MW and supplies Guangdong.[47]

In the original plan, the dam was expected to provide 10% of the electricity consumed in China. However, China’s demand for electricity has increased at a higher rate than was planned; if it were fully operational now, it would support only about 3% of China's total electricity consumption.[48]

Environmental contributions

Direct reduction of air pollutant and greenhouse gas emission

According to the National Development and Reform Commission of China, it takes 366 grams of coal to generate 1 kWh of electricity in China (2006).[49] Therefore, the Three Gorges Dam will potentially reduce the coal consumption by 31 million tonnes per year, also cutting the atmospheric emission of 100 million tonnes of greenhouse gas,[50] millions of tonnes of dust, one million tonnes of sulfur dioxide, 370,000 tonnes of nitric oxide, 10,000 tonnes of carbon monoxide, and a significant amount of mercury.[51] The reduction of fossil-fuel consumption also eliminates the requirement of energy to mine, wash, and transport about 31 million tons of coal from northern China to the load centre in south and east China.

Since the dam started generating power on July 10, 2003, total power production is equivalent to 84 million tonnes of standard coal. This reduces carbon dioxide emission by 190 million tons, sulfur dioxide by 2.29 million tonnes, and nitrogen oxides by 980,000 tonnes.[52]

Reduction of greenhouse gas due to navigation

From 2004 to 2007 a total of 198 million tonnes of goods passed through the Three Gorges Dam ship locks. The freight capacity of the river increased six times and the cost of shipping was reduced by 25%, compared to previous years, which reduces carbon dioxide emission by 630,000 tonnes. Comparing to highway transportation, the amount of fuel that Three Gorges Dam project saved between 2004 and 2007 is equivalent to 4,100,000 tonnes of standard coal. Thus it reduces carbon dioxide emission by ten million tonnes.[52]

Waste management

Zigui County seat source water protection area in Maoping Town, a few km upstream of the dam

Construction of the Three Gorges Dam was a catalyst for upstream waste water treatment in order to reduce the risk of pollutants and disease in the reservoir. Since the construction of the dam began, many waste-water treatment plants have been completed to reduce upstream water pollution coming from the highly populated city of Chongqing and its suburban areas. According to the country's Ministry of Environmental Protection, prior to April 2007, more than 50 waste-water treatment plants had been installed, with their total capacity reaching 1.84 million tonnes per day. More than 65% of the waste water is treated before being dumped into the Three Gorges Dam reservoir. About 32 deposition land sites were completed, which could handle 7,664.5 tonnes of solid waste every day.[53][54]

Afforestation

“The FAO’s research suggests that the Asia-Pacific region will, overall, gain about 6,000 square km of forest in 2008. That is quite a turnaround from the 13,000 square km net loss of forest each year in the 1990s. The main reason is China’s huge reforestation effort. This accelerated after terrible floods in 1998 convinced the government that it must restore tree cover, especially in the mighty Yangtze’s basin” upstream of the Three Gorges Dam.[55]

Flood control and drought relief

The most significant function of the dam is to control flooding, which is a major problem for the seasonal river of the Yangtze. Millions of people live downstream of the dam, with many large, important cities like Wuhan, Nanjing, and Shanghai situated adjacent to the river. Plenty of farm land and China's most important industrial area are built beside the river.
The reservoir's flood storage capacity is 22 km3 (18 million acre feet, 1 km3 = 1 billion cubic metre). This capacity will reduce the frequency of major downstream flooding from once every ten years to once every 100 years. With the dam, it is expected that major floods can be controlled. If a "super" flood comes, the dam is expected to minimize its effect.[56][57] In 1954 the river flooded 193,000 km2 (74,518 sq mi) of land, killing 33,169 people and forcing 18,884,000 people to move. The flood covered Wuhan, a city of eight million people, for over three months, and the Jingguang Railway was out of service for more than 100 days.[58] In the event of a recurrence of the 1954 flood that carried 50 billion m3 of water, the Three Gorges Dam could only divert the water above Chenglingji, still leaving 30 to 40 billion m3 of flood water to be diverted.[59] Also the dam could not protect the large tributaries such as the Xiangjiang, Zishui, Yuanshui, Lishui, Hanjiang, and Ganjiang from flooding, due to the location of the dam.

In 1998 a flood in the same area caused billions of dollars in damage; 2,039 square kilometres of farm land were flooded. The Chinese government asked for support from its military to fight the flooding. The flood affected more than 2.3 million people, and 1,526 were killed.[60]

In early August 2009, the largest flood in five years passed through the dam site. The dam demonstrated its ability to control the flood by limiting the water flow to less than 40,000 cubic metres per second, thus raising the water level upstream of the dam from 145.13 metres on August 1, 2009, to 152.88 on August 8, 2009. The total amount of flood water reserved was 4,270,000,000 cubic metres and the river flow was cut by 15,000 cubic metres per second at the most.[39]
The dam discharges its reservoir during the dry season between December and March every year.[61] This increases the flow rate of the river downstream, and provides more fresh water for agricultural and industrial usage. It also improves the navigation conditions during the dry season. The water level upstream drops from 175 m to 145 m,[62] leaving room for the flooding season. This also increases the power output of the Gezhouba Dam downstream.

Since the filling of the reservoir in 2003, the Three Gorges Dam has supplied an extra 11 billion cubic metres of fresh water to downstream cities and farms during the dry season, mitigating the effect of drought and improving navigation.[63]

Navigation

Ship locks for river traffic to bypass the Three Gorges Dam, May 2004

Locks

The installation of ship locks is intended to increase river shipping from ten million to 100 million tonnes annually, with transportation costs cut by 30 to 37%. Shipping will become safer, since the gorges are notoriously dangerous to navigate.[52] Each of the two ship locks is made up of five stages, taking around four hours in total to transit, and has a vessel capacity of 10,000 tons.[64] Critics argue, however, that heavy siltation will clog ports such as Chongqing within a few years based on the evidence from other dam projects.

The locks are designed to be 280 m long, 35 m wide, and 5 m deep (918 x 114 x 16.4 ft).[65][66] That is 30 m longer than those on the St Lawrence Seaway, but half as deep. Before the dam was constructed, the maximum freight capacity of the river at the Three Gorges site was 18.0 million tonnes per year. From year 2004 to 2007, a total of 198 million tonnes of freight passed through the Three Gorges Dam ship locks. The freight capacity of the river increased six times and the cost of shipping was reduced by 25%, compared to the previous years. The total capacity of the ship locks is expected to reach 100 million tonnes.[52]

Ship lifts

In addition to the canal locks, the Three Gorges Dam will be equipped with a ship lift, a kind of elevator for vessels.The ship lift is designed to be capable of lifting ships of up to 3,000 tons,[67] having been reduced from the original plans where the ship lift was going to have the capacity to lift vessels of up to 11,500 tons displacement. The vertical distance travelled will be 113 metres,[68] and the size of the ship lift's basin will be 120x18x3.5 metres. The ship lift, when completed, will take 30 to 40 minutes to ascend or descend, as opposed to the three to four hours for stepping through the main locks.[69] One of the factors complicating the design is that the water level can vary dramatically. The ship lift had to be designed to work properly even if the water levels varied by 12 metres on the lower side, and 30 metres on the upper side.

The ship lift was not yet complete when the rest of the project was officially opened on May 20, 2006.[70][71] Construction of the ship lift started in October 2007 and is anticipated to be completed in 2014.[72]

Relocation of local residents

During the planning stages in the 1990s it was estimated that 1.13 million residents would be forced to relocate; the final number (as of June 2008) ended up being 1.24 million, after the last town (Gaoyang in Hubei Province) was relocated.[73][74] This number is about 1.5% of the total population of Hubei Province (60.3 million) and Chongqing City (31.44 million) where the reservoir is located.[75] About 140,000 residents were relocated out of Hubei province to eastern provinces and some central provinces; most of the remaining people were relocated within Hubei Province.[76] The relocation project was completed on July 22, 2008.[74] On October 11, 2007, Chinese state media announced that under a development plan of Chongqing city, an additional four million people will be encouraged to move from their homes near the dam to the Chongqing metropolitan area by the year 2020.[77][78][79]

There have been accusations of corruption over money sent to the town of Gaoyang for the purpose of relocating 13,000 farmers. The funds disappeared after being sent to the local government, and residents were denied compensation.[80]

Criticism

Affecting biodiversity

Of the 3,000 to 4,000 remaining critically endangered Siberian Crane, a large number spent the winter in wetlands that were destroyed by the Three Gorges Dam. The dam also contributed to the functional extinction of the Baiji, the Yangtze river dolphin.
There are high levels of pollution currently in the Yangtze. Over one billion tons of wastewater are released annually into the river.[81] The dam will significantly decrease the river's flushing capacity, and the pollution ratings will increase. For the current amount of pollution, there is an estimated cost of 2.8 billion Yuan to clean the river.[citation needed]

Effect on local culture and aesthetic values

The 600 kilometre (375 mi) long reservoir has flooded or will flood some 1,300 archaeological sites and will alter the appearance of the Three Gorges as the water level rises over 100 metres at various locations.[82] Cultural and historical relics are being moved to higher ground as they are discovered, but the flooding will undoubtedly cover some undiscovered relics. Some other sites cannot be moved because of their location, size, or design. For example, the hanging coffins site high in the Shen Nong Gorge is inherently part of the sheer cliffs themselves.[83]

Downstream erosion and upstream sedimentation

There are two hazards uniquely identified with the dam.[84] One is that sedimentation projections are not agreed upon, and the other is that the dam sits on a seismic fault.

The Three Gorges area currently has 10% forestation, down from 20% in the 1950s. At current levels, 80% of the land in the area is experiencing erosion, causing about 40 million tons of sediment to deposit into the Yangtze annually.[81] The relocation of people from the reservoir area will cause further deforestation and erosion due to agricultural needs. Stopping the periodic and uncontrolled flooding of the river will lessen bank erosion in the long run. The buildup of silt in the reservoir will, however, reduce the amount of silt transported by the Yangtze River to the Yangtze Delta and could reduce the effectiveness of the dam for electricity generation and, perhaps more important, the lack of silt deposited in the peninsula could result in erosion and sinking of coastal areas.

Excessive sedimentation can block the dam's sluice gates, which can cause dam failure under some conditions, as occurred with the failure of the Banqiao Dam in 1975. Critics believe that the Yangtze will add 530 million tons of silt into the reservoir on average per year; in time, this silt could accumulate behind the walls of the dam, clogging the turbines' entranceway. However, because China has begun constructing four other megadams on the upstream of Yangtze since 2006, the sedimentation from upstream would be much less than originally predicted.

The absence of silt downstream would have two effects:

  • Some hydrologists think that this could make downstream riverbanks more vulnerable to flooding.[85]
  • The city of Shanghai, more than 1,000 miles (1,600 km) away from the dam, rests on a massive plain of sediment. The "arriving silt — so long as it does arrive — strengthens the bed on which Shanghai is built... the less the tonnage of arriving sediment the more vulnerable is this biggest of Chinese cities to inundation..."[86] The benthic sediment buildup is a cause of biological damage and reduction in aquatic biodiversity.[87]

National security concerns

In an annual report to the United States Congress, the Department of Defense cited that in Taiwan, “proponents of strikes against the mainland apparently hope that merely presenting credible threats to China’s urban population or high-value targets, such as the Three Gorges Dam, will deter Chinese military coercion.”[88]

The notion that the Military of the Republic of China would seek to destroy the dam provoked an angry response from the People's Republic of China media. People’s Liberation Army General Liu Yuan was quoted in the China Youth Daily saying that the People’s Republic of China would be "seriously on guard against threats from Taiwan independence terrorists."[89]

Structural integrity

A number of concerns have arisen about the possibly inadequate structural stability of the dam itself. Several days after the first filling of the reservoir, around 80 visible cracks were observed in the dam's structure.[90][91] The cracks were described to be "hairline" despite their size and depth.[92] The submerged spillway gates of the dam pose a risk of cavitation,[93] which is similar to the cavitation that destroyed the spillways of the Glen Canyon Dam in the floods of 1983.

The Three Gorges Dam Project Corporation responded to the criticism of the dam integrity, saying that the project quality is under control over its 17 years of construction. Around 163,000 concrete units of the dam all passed the quality test. After filling of the reservoir, the dam deformation was within the design limit. The right side of the dam is free of cracks, which is a significant achievement of the project. An experts group gave the project overall a good rating in terms of quality.[94]

Earthquakes and landslides

There is also the potential for earthquake-induced peak ground acceleration to overcome the strength of the upstream face of the dam which, coupled with the immense weight of the reservoir water, could cause breaching.[93] Erosion in the reservoir, induced by rising water, causes frequent major landslides that have led to noticeable disturbance in the reservoir surface, including two incidents in May 2009 when 50,000 and 20,000 cubic metres (65,000 and 26,000 cu yd) of material plunged into the flooded Wuxia Gorge of the Wu River.[95]

Damming projects upstream

Longitudinal profile of upstream Yangtze River

In order to maximize the utility of the Three Gorges Dam and cut down on sedimentation from the Jinsha, or the upstream of the Yangtze River before reaching Yibin, China plans to build a series of dams at the downstream of Jinsha, including Wudongde Dam, Baihetan Dam, Xiluodu Dam, and Xiangjiaba Dam. The total capacity of those four dams is 38,500 MW,[96] almost double the capacity of the Three Gorges.[97] Xiluodu Dam and Xiangjiaba Dam are under construction, while Baihetan Dam is preparing for construction and Wudongde Dam is still in the process of obtaining government approval. There are also another eight dams in the midstream of the Jinsha and eight more upstream of it.[98]

References in culture

  • In Max Brooks’ novel World War Z, the large artificial lake upstream of the dam is the site of the initial zombie outbreak before the war; a superstitious character suggests that the outbreak is a retribution for the destruction of ancient holy sites. Later in the novel, the dam is overrun by zombie hordes, which make the emergency pressure release valves impossible to reach. This eventually results in the Three Gorges Dam rupturing, resulting in a massive tsunami which races to the ocean, destroying what remains of Wuhan, Nanjing, and Shanghai. This results in the outbreak of the Chinese Civil War.[99]
  • In the novel Dragon Bones by Lisa See, a murder investigation takes place at the Three Gorges Dam.[100]
  • Jia Zhangke’s film Still Life describes the destiny of two couples with connections to the dam.
  • Yung Chang's 2007 award-winning documentary film, Up the Yangtze, features the effects of the dam on various people along the Yangtze River
  • Jennifer Baichwal's 2006 award-winning documentary film, Manufactured Landscapes about the work of photographer Edward Burtynsky. The film follows Burtynsky on a tour of China as he took large-scale photographs of industrial subjects.
  • Robert Ferrigno's 2006 novel Prayers for the Assassin involves a massive nuclear bomb found at the base of the Three Gorges Dam.[101]

Images

See also

References

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  13. ^ [1]
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External links

Coordinates: 30°49′15″N 111°00′08″E / 30.82083°N 111.00222°E / 30.82083; 111.00222


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