2008 – Structural risk from cracking in mass concrete monoliths

Randy J James, Yuyi Zhang, Gabriela Lyvers, David Schaaf

Abstract: Following the flooding disaster in New Orleans, Louisiana, due to Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) initiated a comprehensive program to survey, evaluate, and rank all dams and levees in the COE’s portfolio for risk of structural failure and associated economic consequences. One objective of this program is to improve safety and risk through efficient allocation of resources for rehabilitation efforts when needed. One area of great concern is internal stresses in aging concrete monoliths causing cracking. While some cracking in concrete monoliths is a common condition having little effect on the structural performance, extended cracking can lead to instability in parts of the monolith. Mass concrete monoliths generally are not reinforced, and cold joints at lift interfaces are a potential source of weak planes. Failure of concrete monoliths due to sliding instability along internal cracked planes can have serious consequences for loss of pool. This failure mode can occur quite suddenly, and detection of such cracking or the extent of such cracking is very difficult to establish from visual inspections or even core sampling. To help in this portfolio risk assessment, analysis methodology has been developed for establishing the structural risk due to cracking in mass concrete monoliths. Finite element modelling with automated mesh generation and employing advanced concrete constitutive relations for crack initiation, propagation, and arrest, are used to establish internal cracking. Monte Carlo based probabilistic analysis methods, directly coupled to the finite element analyses, are used to evaluate uncertainties and establish the probability of failure for increasing pool elevations and seismic hazards. The objective is to provide a probability of failure for possible pool elevations under current site conditions given that there is always some possibility of a range of seismic events that could occur at any given time.

Keywords: concrete dams, cracking, structural reliability, risk, and safety


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