Itaipu, South America's Grande Dame

by John S. Cotrim, (M.ASCE), Technical Dir.; Itaipu Binacional, Av Rio Branco 151 80, Rio De Janeiro 80, Brazil,
Hans W. Krauch, Adjunct Technical Dir.; Itaipu Binacional, Av Rio Branco 151 80, Rio De Janeiro 80, Brazil,
Gurmukh S. Sarkaria, (F.ASCE), Sr. Vice Pres.; International Engineering Co., Inc., 180 Howard St., San Francisco, Calif. 94105,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1984, Vol. 54, Issue 12, Pg. 40-43

Document Type: Feature article


When fully operational, the Itaipu hydropower project, located along the Parana River between Brazil and Paraguay, will be the world's largest. In 1989, it is expected to produce 75 billion kwhr, four times the annual output of the Grand Coulee Dam. The greatest challenge for the project's engineers was in the project's sheer magnitude. The 643 ft high 25,400 ft long Itaipu Dam is the world's highest and largest hollow gravity dam. In spite of the magnitude of work, the complexities of the jobsite and a binational enterprise, the essential civil works were completed and the reservoir filled within the tight schedule. Civil engineering decisions included single step river diversion through an excavated channel, construction of embankment type cofferdams in a deep, fast flowing river, selection of hollow gravity type for the main dam, simultaneous closure of the diversion sluices and rapid filling of the reservoir and design of the spillway for almost continuous operation. Itaipu will operate as a base-load powerplant with very small reservoir drawdown, which will ensure high operational efficiency and low maintenance costs. The unit cost of Itaipu energy will be far cheaper than that produced by large thermal powerplants.

Subject Headings: Gravity dams | Reservoirs | Developing countries | Embankment dams | Power plants | Hydro power | Rivers and streams | Scheduling | South America | Parana River | Brazil | Paraguay

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