July 26, 2012

World's most powerful dam opens in China

The giant and controversial Three Gorges Dam in China has launched the last of its generators, just as it hits its annual flood peak.

The final 32 generators went into operation this week, making it the world's largest hydropower project, built on the Yangtze River in the Hubei Province.

It is designed to decrease the risk of flooding during the current peak rainfall season, as well as store and distribute water during the dry periods.

A series of incredible photos show the sheer force of the flood water released from seven spillways after heavy downpours in the upper reaches of the dam caused the highest flood peak of the year.

Water from the Yangtze River upper gushed at up 70,000 cubic metres per second into the dam's reservoir yesterday.

The dam is working to take the edge off the fierce flood and reduce its impact on the river's lower reaches by storing at least 26,000 cubic meters of flood water every second, the Yangtze River flood control and drought relief, according to the Global Times.

Water outflow from the dam currently measures 43,000 cubic meters per second.

So far the forces of flood has been been the highest in recent memory, worse that the devastating 1998 Yangtze flood which cause a large amount of damage with a flow rate of 50,000 cubic meters per second.

The ongoing flood is therefore the biggest challenge the dam has faced since it started storing water, the headquarters said.

Weekend floods in Beijing caused 'significant losses' and casualty numbers are still being tallied, the head of the worst-hit district has said.

The heavy rains have left nearly 100 people dead, state media has said, although those figures have been questioned by international observers, who believe the death toll could be higher.

'The full operation of the generators makes the Three Gorges Dam the world's largest hydropower project and largest base of clean energy,' said Zhang Cheng, general manager of China Yangtze Power, the operator of the generators.

The dam, which first went into operation in 2003 at a cost of $22.5 billion, has a combined generating capacity of 22.5 million kilowatts (22,500 megawatts), the equivalent of fifteen nuclear reactors.

The construction of the dam, which forced the relocation of 1.4 million people, has been heavily criticised by experts worldwide, and residents of nearby areas.

Beijing has long held up the dam as a symbol of its engineering prowess, a solution to the frequent floods of China's longest river and a source of badly-needed electricity.

But in May last year Beijing admitted the dam had spawned a range of problems.

The project began in 1993 despite warnings the weight of the reservoir would dangerously alter central China's geology, uproot millions of people, poison water supplies by trapping pollution and disrupt the Yangtze watershed.

The dam has created a reservoir stretching up to 600 kilometres (370 miles) through the scenic Three Gorges region, which is criss-crossed by geological faultlines.