2012 – Reducing Uncertainties in Safety Assessments of Aging Dams through Site Specific Investigations

Nicole Anderson, M. Tooley, N. Vitharana, D. Moore

There is a significant stock of aging concrete dams in Australia which do not meet the requirements of modern dam safety practices. Where no site-specific information exists, current practice requires unduly simplified, conservative assumptions to be made. In some cases, this results in theoretical dam failure for load conditions which the dam has already experienced and safely withstood.
This paper outlines a range of site-specific field and laboratory investigations undertaken to reduce uncertainties in the assessment of two concrete gravity dams. For one dam, a suite of lab tests was undertaken to determine the residual reactivity so that potential future Alkaline-Aggregate Reaction induced expansion can be incorporated into any upgrade design.
The main purpose of the investigations was to reduce inherent uncertainties surrounding the design assumptions for strength and uplift pressures. This in turn reduced uncertainties relating to the risk profile of the dams.
The findings of this investigation will be of interest to dam designers and owners faced with upgrading concrete dams where a single traditional assumption can result in the difference between no upgrade or an upgrade worth several million dollars.
Keywords: Concrete gravity dams, testing, upgrade, Alkali Aggregate Reaction, dam design guidelines.

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