2008 – Tools for predicting probability of failure of mechanical/electrical systems for dams

Rick W Schultz PE

Abstract: Dams serve many purposes: flood control, fresh water intakes for municipalities/power plants, navigation, and recreation. Throughout history risk of catastrophic failure of dams has always been an issue which engineers have had to deal with. The potential for loss of life and property damage of residents living and working downstream of dams continues to grow as more and more development occurs downstream of dams.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is embarking on a complete dam safety evaluation program which encompasses over 600 of its projects throughout the United States. This program is used to evaluate the risk and reliability of dams and will assist in making decisions for budgeting and repairs of dam projects throughout the Corps.

Corps of Engineers dams have a wide variety of ages, environments, structural and mechanical designs, and geological conditions.

This paper will discuss the condition assessment tools which are being developed to determine the reliability/probability of failure of the mechanical and electrical components and systems on dams. These tools, when combined with other tools such as geotechnical, structural, and hydraulic, are used to give an overall reliability of a dam.

Keywords: probability of failure, Weibull formula, characteristic life of mechanical/electrical components shape parameters, fault trees.

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