Controverses / hydroélectricité

Chine:  Cracks Emerge as Three Gorges Reservoir Fills
CHONGQING, China, June 12, 2003 (ENS) - Some 80 cracks have been found in the enormous new Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River, and an official said at a news conference today that the cracks could leak if they are not fixed, the Associated Press reports. The statement was made by one of the dam's designers, Pan Jiazheng, who is head of the construction committee inspection group. 
    The admission contrasts with the statement today of another official reported by the official Chinese news agency Xinhua who said that the water at Three Gorges is "stable." Xu Shubi, deputy director of Chongqing Municipal Bureau of Environmental Protection, said most indicators at the Three Gorges Reservoir were up to the state's required water quality, after 20 consecutive days of monitoring. 
    The reservoir of the Three Gorges project, the world's largest water control project, has stored 10 billion cubic meters of water since storage began on June 1. The dam is needed, the Chinese say, for flood control and power generation. 
    Jiazheng is prepared to address problems that arise once the Three Gorges Dam has begun operation. A member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and former vice-director of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, he told the Department of Water Conservancy and Hydropower, Qinghua University, Beijing, in February that a new category of disasters known “water calamities,” meaning water disasters caused by human activities, should be considered.
    "Let me remind you," he said, "all that the real examiners are not the expert team or the inspection group, but the water pressure after 39 billion cubic metres of water are impounded in the reservoir; the devastating floods that occur almost every year; the earthquakes and landslides; the boats travelling on the river; and the turbines generating electricity.
These are the real examiners, who will show no mercy. They are ready to take their revenge and exploit any mistakes and misjudgments that we make in design, construction, manufacturing and installation, as well as project management."
    The rise in the water level of the Three Gorges Reservoir reached the specified level of 135 meters, and the trial run of the massive power generators has begun, official Chinese media reported Wednesday. The Yangtze River will reopen for navigation on June 16. 
    Although the entire Three Gorges Project will not be completed until 2009, it will start to play an important role in flood control, power generation, navigation, water diversion and environmental protection this year, Chinese experts say. 
    Upon completion, the Three Gorges Project will be the world's biggest hydropower plant in terms of both total installed capacity and annual average power generation volume. 
    Twenty-six turbine generator sets, with a per-unit generation capacity of 700,000 kilowatts, will be installed on the left and right banks of the Three Gorges Hydropower Station. The overall generation capacity is estimated at 18.2 million kilowatts. Once the project is complete, the annual power generation is estimated to average 84.68 billion kilowatt hours, equivalent to one-seventh of China's total power generation in 1992. 
    China plans to invest some 40 billion yuan (US$4.8 billion) in curbing water pollution in the reservoir and along the upper reaches of the Yangtze River by 2010. More than 150 new sewage treatment plants and 170 garbage disposal facilities will be built.