Location of the Jirau Dam in Brazil
|Official name||Usina Hidrelétrica Santo Antônio Jirau|
|Construction began||December 2008|
|Construction cost||US$8 billion|
|Dam and spillways|
|Type of dam||Embankment, concrete gravity composite|
|Height||63 m (207 ft)|
|Length||1,500 m (4,921 ft)|
|Dam volume||2,000,000 m3 (70,629,333 cu ft) (embankment)|
|Spillway type||Overflow, 21 controlled gates|
|Spillway capacity||82,000 m3/s (2,895,803 cu ft/s)|
|Surface area||258 km2 (100 sq mi)|
|Hydraulic head||15.10 m (50 ft)|
|Turbines||50 x 75 MW bulb turbines|
|Installed capacity||1,800 MW
3,750 MW (max)
The Jirau Dam is a rock-fill dam with an asphalt-concrete core, currently under construction on the Madeira River in the state of Rondônia, Brazil. The dam's hydroelectric power stations will have 50 turbines each 75 MW resulting total installed capacity of 3,750 MW. The power plant's first unit was commissioned in September 2013, the 16th November 2014 and 24th in February 2015. Most of the power is designed to be exported to south-eastern Brazil via the Rio Madeira HVDC system.
The dam is part of a planned four power plant Madeira river hydroelectric complex, which will consist of two dams in Brazil (3,580 MW Santo Antonio Dam at the city of Porto Velho and Jirau), a third on the border of Brazil and Bolivia, and a fourth station inside Bolivia. Two of these, Santo Antonio and Jirau, are currently under construction, while the smaller upstream dams are still in the planning stages. In part due to the 2001–2002 power shortage in Brazil, construction of both dams was accelerated in 2009. The total estimated cost of the two facilities currently under construction is $15.6 billion ($8 billion for Jirau), including about $10 billion for the civil engineering and power plants, and $5 billion for ship locks, transmission lines, and environmental re-mediation. The Madeira river hydroelectric complex is part of the Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America, an effort by South American governments to integrate the continent's infrastructure with new investments in transportation, energy, and communication. Construction on the project was temporary halted in March 2011, February 2012 and April 2013 due to worker riots or strikes.
The Brazilian Development Bank approved an additional US$1.6 billion for the project in September 2012. The extra funding will add six more 75 MW bulb turbine-generators to the power station (a total of 50) and pay for transmission lines.
The Jirau Dam will be a combination embankment dam with concrete sections for the power stations and spillway. The length of the entire dam will be 1,100 m (3,609 ft) while the embankment section will be 800 m (2,625 ft). The embankment dam will be arched, 63 m (207 ft) tall and will have an asphalt-core. Its structural volume will be 2,000,000 m3 (70,629,333 cu ft) of which 17,000 m3 (600,349 cu ft) will be asphalt. The dam's spillway will consist of 21 gates and will have a maximum discharge of 82,000 m3/s (2,895,803 cu ft/s). The run-of-the-river dam's power station will contain 50 x 75 MW bulb turbines for a total installed capacity of 3,750 MW. The reservoir created by the dam will have a surface area of 258 km2 (100 sq mi) of which 135 km2 (52 sq mi) is the original riverbed. Bulb turbines are a variation of the Kaplan turbine, with the main differences being that bulb turbines are installed horizontally and are generally considered to be slightly more efficient. The power plant is being constructed by the French utility GDF Suez SA and Brazilian company Camargo Correa SA.
Brazilian law requires water impoundments to undergo a very thorough approval process to ensure that each project meets environmental, social, political, and safety criteria. However, critics of the Jirau and Santo Antonio dam claim that many legal criteria were rubber-stamped before all questions from impacted groups had been addressed. The dam's social impacts received the majority of substantive criticism (see below). However, environmental groups noted that the fast track approval for the Madeira dams sets a dangerous precedent. Brazilian law allows for expedited licensing for eco-friendly projects described by the Worldwatch institute as "kindler, gentler dams with smaller reservoirs, designed to lessen social and environmental impacts." The Worldwatch Institute insists that no project should "fast-track the licensing of new dams in Amazonia and allow projects to circumvent Brazil's tough environmental laws".
The most frequent objection is that the dam builders failed to adequately consult with indigenous peoples, as required by law. The Brazilian government indigenous protection foundation FUNAI predicts that there may be un-contacted indigenous populations in the region that will be affected by the Madeira complex. Most of the affected populations are nearest to the Jirau dam. The threat to uncontacted Indians has motivated both internal and external criticism of GDF Suez, the contractor responsible for building the Jirau dam. A coalition of non governmental organizations called for dam construction to be halted, and questions were raised during annual meeting of GDF Suez.
Because both the Jirau and Santo Antonio dams are run-of-the-river projects, neither dam impounds a large reservoir. Both dams also feature significant environmental re-mediation efforts. As a consequence, there has not been strong environmental opposition to the implementation of the Madeira river complex. However, critics point out that if the fish ladders fail, "several valuable migratory fish species could suffer near-extinction as a result of the Madeira dams."  Jirau's environmentally friendly design earned the plant registration under the "Clean Development Mechanism" (CDM) program of the United Nations. Jirau is the largest renewable energy plant to earn the CDM, which is awarded to innovative projects that help to solve environmental problems such as climate change.
Construction on the dam was halted on 18 March 2011 as workers rioted; setting fire to buses and destroying part of the worker housing. Wages and the treatment by security officials was attributed to the rioting. Additional security personal had to be sent to the site and construction was halted. Workers went on strike at Jirau and Santo Antonio in April 2013 after a salary increase proposal was rejected.
Opportunities for Bolivia
Bolivia has been a landlocked country since it lost its coastline to Chile in the war of the pacific in 1884. Many Bolivians feel a deep and lasting bitterness due to this loss, and the Bolivian military continues to build and maintain an open ocean navy in Lake Titicaca, awaiting an eventual recovery of access to the sea. The Madeira river complex presents an opportunity for Bolivia because all of the hydroelectric dams would feature ship locks capable of raising and lowering oceangoing vessels. If the project is completed, "more than 4,000 km of waterways upstream from the dams in Brazil, Bolivia, and Peru would become navigable." Hence, if the project is completed, both Bolivian commercial vessels and the Bolivian navy would have access to the open ocean, and lucrative sea lanes, for the first time in 120 years.
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