Experimental study on cracking, reinforcement, and overall stability of the Xiaowan super-high arch dam
Lin, P and Zhou, W and Liu, H, Experimental study on cracking, reinforcement, and overall stability of the Xiaowan super-high arch dam, Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering, 48, (2) pp. 819-841. ISSN 0723-2632 (2015) [Refereed Article]
The Xiaowan super-high arch dam has faced challenging construction problems. Here, we provide a scientifically-based reference for applying geomechanical model testing to support the nonlinear design of super-high arch dams. We applied experimental similarity theory and techniques. Based on four 3D geomechanical model tests, the dam stress characteristics, deformation distribution, and the safety factors of the dam foundation were identified and compared. We also analyzed cracking characteristics of the up- and downstream dam surfaces and induced joints in the dam heel, the rock mass failure process of the dam-foundation interface, and the abutments. We propose foundation reinforcement measures for weak rock masses, alteration zones, and other faults in the abutments based on the 3D and plane tests each at a different elevation. The results show that all dam deformations remained normal with no yielding or tensile cracking under a normal water load. The reinforced rock mass increased the crack initial safety in the dam heel and toe by ~20 %. The minimum crack initial safety factor (K1) of the dam heel was 1.4. The induced joint in the dam heel contributed to a reduction in tensile stress at the upstream dam heel, improving K1. Compared with similar projects following reinforcement measures, the abutment stiffness and overall stability of the Xiaowan arch dam satisfy operational requirements. Four years of monitoring operations show that key areas near the dam remained normal and the dam foundation is functioning well. Our results may also be applicable to the design and construction of similar projects worldwide.