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Lessons learned from Wenchuan earthquake for seismic safety of large dams

Chen Houqun

China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research, Beijing 100044, China

Abstract: This paper describes some special features of the Wenchuan earthquake that affected dam safety. Damage and performance of dams, primarily for four dams over 100 m high located in the affected earthquake area, are briefly described. Lessons learned related to dam safety from this devastating earthquake are preliminarily drawn. As the seismic safety of high dams during strong earthquakes has gained more attention around the world, some critical issues related to dam construction in China are considered and extensively discussed. Questions such as “Why is dam construction necessary in earthquake prone countries such as China?”, “Can we accurately evaluate the seismic safety of high dams in China?”, “Did reservoir impounding of the Zipingpu and Three Gorges Projects trigger the Wenchuan Earthquake in some way?” and “What is the strategic priority of dam safety for large dams in China?” are discussed. Finally, the corresponding tactics with response to the challenge are suggested and recent preliminary progress mainly achieved in IWHR is briefly introduced.

Keywords: Wenchuan earthquake; dam safety; lesson; reservoir earthquake; strategic priority

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Copyright© 2009 IEM. Journal of Earthquake Engineering and Engineering Vibration. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise, except as described below, without written permission from the Publisher. Copying of articles is not permitted except for personal and internal use, to the extent permitted by national copyright law, or under the terms of a license issued by the National Reproduction Rights Organization of China.