Not the Big Chinese Power Dam

i-b6cdc908c704a7f2363e401166d865b5-P1020799.JPG

The rivers run almost dry in Qingtian prefecture, Zhejiang province, China, because of recently built power dams. This particular dam on a tributary of the main river was completed three years ago. The resulting lake is 100 meters deep above the drowned villages on the valley floor.

And if they didn’t build these dams? Either burn coal, build more nuclear plants or stay an undeveloped nation.

i-d485da5c65cfeae8de1e3963463dae90-P1020790.JPG

i-b55734a3a68919d01ea59ee573c54c6c-P1020796.JPG

i-aee57d6c606f79bb740eef8526951cf7-P1020791.JPG

Cultivation terraces and tombs that were once way up the mountainside and hardly accessible at all are now at the lake shore. Note the zone of silt-grey terraces just above the current water level.

i-7a5766df4a2d8d9a8d840ac8172458d8-P1020794.JPG

i-e4c10b3750cb84742b5fab5bd2747e18-P1020795.JPG

i-d439e903f6745c0939109b4416182df2-P1020792.JPG

The new bridge that was among the highest in the world when it was built now sits at a comfortable height above the lake’s surface, its pillars hidden. And across the water ply little ferries, transporting people who lived for decades down there where only fish go now.

Comments

  1. #1 Thomas
    June 16, 2011

    Maybe they could start scuba diving centers to go see the recent ruins? Not too close to the turbines though…

  2. #2 Birger Johansson
    June 16, 2011

    The wildly fluctuating water levels make these dams less than ideal for fish and the algae that feed them.
    Fossil fuels …The porous exhausted oil deposits would be useful for injecting CO2 with litte risk of it leaking out. Maybe the technology is not available today, but it has to be done sooner or later.

  3. #3 djlactin
    June 16, 2011

    Sad, but what’s better: burn coal or use hydroelectric power?

  4. #4 Nomen Nescio
    June 16, 2011

    the Chinese are building nuclear power also, with the intent to increase the percentage of electricity produced by nuclear reactors (currently reported as 1%). mostly they’re building an indigenous, not very high-tech, pressurized water design.

    i had heard rumors of the Chinese working on a fourth-generation, passively safe, pebble bed design as well; this appears to be at best in the research stages, still.

  5. #5 Alex Besogonov
    June 16, 2011

    Nomen: Chinese are building 20 pebble bed reactors _now_. Not experimental reactors, but production models slated to be finished within 5 years and 10 more by 2020.

  6. #6 Birger Johansson
    June 16, 2011

    Alas, even if the safety issues can be mostly solved with those fourth-generation reactors the cost per unit is truly astronomical. That is why the power industry interests in US have mostly lost their enthusiasm for a renaissance of nuclear power.

  7. #7 Birger Johansson
    June 16, 2011

    (OT: Street pit illusion in Sergels Torg square, Stockholm)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pDfC1om4BQ&feature=player_embedded

  8. #8 Nomen Nescio
    June 16, 2011

    Alex: that was the rumor i too had heard, but on looking for a confirmation i could only find claims of various generation-2 and -3 pressurized water designs being currently constructed. do you have a link i missed?

    and Birger, the cost per unit matters little; the cost per kilowatt hour is the deciding factor. (hydroelectric dams aren’t exactly cheap either, after all.) the reactors currently being built (the ones i could find confirmation of, that is — i’m unsure of the pebble bed ones Alex speaks of, either as to lifespan or cost) have a design lifespan of six decades, so we’re dealing with a pretty good amortization timespan. with some luck that lifespan will prove to be extensible, as currently operating reactors have been, meaning their economy might be improved further still.

  9. #9 Chris O'Neill
    June 16, 2011

    the cost per unit is truly astronomical. That is why the power industry interests in US have mostly lost their enthusiasm for a renaissance of nuclear power.

    And if the Chinese, on the other hand, are building nuclear power stations then it must be because they are stupid and Americans are not.

  10. #10 TheCrankyProfessor
    June 17, 2011

    Every now and then a drought will lower the 1930s lakes created by the Tennessee Valley Authority for us to see steeple tops of drowned villages. And local fishermen have detailed street maps of those places – certain fish like the ruins.

  11. #11 Birger Johansson
    June 17, 2011

    “And if the Chinese, on the other hand, are building nuclear power stations then it must be because they are stupid and Americans are not”

    I suspect it is more complex than that. On one hand the Chinese government is waking up to the realities of climate change and is making some good initiatives, on the other hand, governments that do not have to account to their peoples have a tendency to go for really big “monumental” projects that do not automatically pass a cost/benefit analysis.
    Or they may simply be hedging their bets. Exactly which technologies that will be mature when oil prices go astronomically high (see “Hubbert’s Peak) is not a known factor.
    — — — — —

    Early French had a taste for beer
    http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-06-early-french-beer.html

  12. #12 Birger Johansson
    June 17, 2011

    Other abandoned communities (plus some British turrets that look like H G Wells’ Martians)
    http://news.travel.aol.com/2011/06/15/visiting-10-of-the-most-interesting-abandoned-places-on-earth/#4223317

  13. #13 Nomen Nescio
    June 17, 2011

    one of those British turrets became coopted as the “independent principality” of sealand.

    come to think of it, i wonder whatever became of sealand. last i heard it was quietly rusting away while the British authorities equally quietly ignored it…

  14. #14 Birger Johansson
    June 17, 2011

    “come to think of it, i wonder whatever became of sealand”

    Idea: Proclaim it the official homeland for anti-vaxxers, climate change deniers and various irritating groups (white supremacists for example) and le them spend their energy and money repairing the rusty hulks. If they install cameras, you have the infrastructure for the reality TV series “super-jackass”.
    Fringe groups have a difficult time getting along with each other since the alpha males do not understand the concepts of democracy or respect. They can live there and watch “Triumph of the Will” and we can live here watching them quarrel.

  15. #15 Chris O'Neill
    June 18, 2011

    governments that do not have to account to their peoples have a tendency to go for really big “monumental” projects that do not automatically pass a cost/benefit analysis.

    As I pointed out, the Chinese must be stupid enough to be sucked in by these big “monumental” projects while Americans are not.

    Or they may simply be hedging their bets. Exactly which technologies that will be mature when oil prices go astronomically high (see “Hubbert’s Peak) is not a known factor.

    Coal-burning power stations are a mature technology and presumably their cost is not astronomical like nuclear power stations as someone pointed out

  16. #16 Nomen Nescio
    June 18, 2011

    coal burning power stations only seem “cheap” because we flat out refuse to account for their externalities. figure in the expected future costs of climate change alone, and any fossil fuel power is horrendously expensive.

    really, there is no such thing as cheap energy. if anybody tells you there is, i recommend you become suspicious that some externality is being ignored.

  17. #17 Jonathan Jarrett
    June 19, 2011

    My current research site is a monastery that used to be the local lord of about six villages which were submerged under a reservoir in the 1970s. It’s beautiful and looks more or less natural, which is an achievement, but the past is underwater there. (Photos upcoming on my blog.) Except in 2008, when the area underwent such drought that for the first time in decades one could walk into the church of Sant Romà del Sau. I have no idea if it still counts as consecrated in these circumstances… and if so what that does, theologically, for the river fauna that had lived there.

  18. #18 Martin R
    June 19, 2011

    Wow Jon, sounds fascinating! What are you trying to figure out about the monastery?

  19. #19 Birger Johansson
    June 19, 2011

    Theologically, I suppose that the river water pouring through becoms holy …which accounts for the absence of supernatural monsters anywhere along the river.

  20. #20 Birger Johansson
    June 20, 2011

    (OT) The glamorous job of being a scientist: Ancient sewer excavation sheds light on the Roman diet
    http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-06-ancient-sewer-excavation-roman-diet.html

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.