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Maintaining Optimism in the Face of Reality. Occasional observations on the state of the world, society, business and politics. Usually anchored by facts, always augmented by opinion.


Those Dam Communists - Hydroelectric problems in Asia  | e-mail post

North Korea is saying the explosion from a few days ago was related to a hydroelectric project. [Yahoo] According to an NK official: "It was a deliberate controlled detonation to demolish a mountain in the far north of the country." This seems to be the story that most major governments are accepting, and the consensus seems to be that it was either that, or possibly and accidental explosion.

When I first read it, it seemed odd. Popping the top off of a mountain for a hydro project? I am not a civil engineer, nor even an engineering dilatante, but it seemed odd.

Apparently some South Koreans have doubts as well as reported by JoongAng Daily. Some quick highlights:

The explosion took place in the middle of the night, but "North Korea suffers from power shortages," a South Korean official said. "It doesn't have an ability to power lighting equipment for a night construction project."

So they blew up a mountain? Seems excessive: "It doesn't make sense to set up blasts strong enough to blow up an entire mountain just to build a dam," Shim Myung-pil, civil engineering professor at Inha University, said. Massive blasts scatter rocks and soil too far away, thus engineers prefer using small-scale blasts when building dams, he said.

That big an explosion must mean a big hydro project. You'd think that would mean a big river, too, however, Ko Deok-gu, senior researcher at the Korea Water Resources Corp., which manages water resources in the South, said there is no large river near the blast site. The area is near the Huchang River, a tributary stream from Yalu River, Mr. Ko said, adding that other rivers east of the Huchang are better suited for building dams. "Even if a dam is built at Huchang, it will only be a small reservoir," he said.

I guess we'll need to wait a few more days to get some definitive answers, but given that it seems unlikely to have been nuclear, that's something.

Of course, if the North Korean's follow China's hydroelectric example of the Three Gorges project, the nuke would probably be the better environmental choice. Also, wasn't one of the goals of the Three Gorges project, environmental destruction, involuntary relocation and all, supposed to be stopping the Yangtze from flooding? Looks like even downstream from the dam it could get nasty. Of course, Chinese officials are saying the heavy rains are a once-in a century occurence. Funny coincidence that this once-per-century thing just happens to occur within the first year of Three Gorges' operation. The flood crest has passed the damn now, but there is apparentl a lot of heavy rain in the region's forecast over the next month.

e-mail post | Link Cosmos | [Permalink]  |  | Monday, September 13, 2004
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