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CenterPoint Energy, Inc. Message Board

  • lewis_whokeyser lewis_whokeyser Mar 1, 2001 3:47 PM Flag

    More Dam Protesters

    As I research this, I find that there are a lot of anti-dam people out there.

    Excerpt from article by Patrick McCulley:

    Many of the methods to prolong dam lifespan are largely unproven, will in many cases not be economically viable, and will rarely be able to prolong dam life indefinitely. ICOLD's reports on dam ageing notwithstanding, few governments or dam-building agencies have started to consider the cost and techniques of monitoring, maintaining and eventually taking down dams.
    The following quote, found in Water Power and Dam Construction, illustrates the industry's attitude about decommissioning: "Some key industry figures had a good laugh informally discussing powerplant decommissioning and dam removal. They shook their heads, saying that they would leave such activities up to their grandchildren; it simply was not going to happen in a serious way during their lives."

    Individual dams may be safer than before, but the huge increase in the number of dams means that the risk of destruction from dam failure remains significant. While it is true that no dam over 125m high has yet "failed," the 261m Vaiont Dam in northern Italy (the world's fourth highest) was overtopped in 1963 by a massive wave caused by a landslide into its reservoir. The dam withstood the force of the wave ?p; but 2,600 people downstream were swept away to their deaths.

    Most high dams are still relatively young and are yet to be tested by the maximum flood or earthquake likely to occur during their lifespan. Some significant near misses ?p; for example in 1974 at Tarbela, Pakistan, and in 1983 at Glen Canyon, US ?p; give warning that it is only a matter of time before a catastrophic failure of a very high dam occurs. The 80,000 to 230,000 deaths believed to have been caused by the failures of Banqiao and Shimantan Dams in China in 1975 give an indication of the scale of disaster likely if a major dam above a heavily populated area were to fail.

    As Dr. Veltrop should know, the hazard ratings of dams in the US are not based on an engineering assessment of the soundness of the structures, but on the height of the dam, size of its reservoir and whether people live below it. According to a 1994 report by the US Association of State Dam Safety Officials, there are more than 9,500 "high-hazard" dams in the US, and more than 1,800 dams which have been inspected and found to be unsafe.

    If ICOLD were indeed concerned that people should be "properly informed about dam safety" it would publicly admit that all large dams have the potential to fail. It would insist on maps showing downstream areas at risk of flooding for all large dams, complete with evacuation plans. To pretend that dam builders can build dams which cannot break is hubris equal to that of the builders of the "unsinkable" Titanic.

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    • This is getting boring. As a dam professional, I find that the amount of lying, hypocritical, self-serving anti-dam propaganda is increasing in virulence and dishonesty.

      You and American Rivers (among others)are adept at taking quotations out of context and twisting them to your own devious ends.

      Are you a member of the CA lunatic fringe that believes that our energy problems will be solved with wind power and electric cars?

      You people deserve everything that's happened to you.

      Trust me, I am well aware of all important dam failures in the past century, including those in China (I have investigated a few of them). Glen Canyon dam was never in danger of failure when it experienced spillway problems in'83. We did, however, learn from the occurrence and this knowledge has served to make future dams with tunnel spillways substantially safer.

      • 1 Reply to jIc_hydro
      • Thank you, JLC Hydro! You are beginning to experience what we in the nuclear community have had to undergo since the mid seventies! Let me just correct a misconception: I'm not anti-hydropower, I'm pro-nuclear, which is my area of expertise.

        Although Three Mile Island actually demonstrated just how safe nuclear power is (nobody was killed or in danger of being killed and no radiation was released, even in a worst-case accident involving a core meltdown) the incident was used by fanatical anti-nuclear activists and a biased media to totally shut down new power plant construction and punish any company with the misfortune to have plants which were under construction. The Washington Public Power Supply System, for instance, was forced into bankrupcy. The government then stepped in with a spate of punitive regulations which drove up the cost of using nuclear power to the point where many existing plants were shut down.

        You can't sell newspapers by claiming nuclear power is safe, but you can sell a lot of them by claiming its dangerous. Similarly, groups like Greenpeace and Public Citizen can't raise donations by supporting nuclear power, but they can raise a lot of cash by claiming it's dangerous or environmentally harmful and opposing it.

        Just as the hydro industry learned from the Glen Canyon dam problem, we learned from Three Mile Island and nuclear power today is even safer then it was in 1979.

        I will quit taking shots at hydro power, however, since I am also pro-hydropower. I was merely surprised by the amount of information you can get by doing a key word search on "dam disasters". Although I posted a few of the articles, the anti-dam sentiments expressed were the authors, not mine.

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