Safety of our power plants
Security is an issue which already occupies a top position when planning a dam. Dams have to put up opposition to accumulated water. By nature, the pressure depends on the width and height of the dam.
No matter what dam is built, in every case they are built in such dimensions in order to withstand a greater amount of pressure than that which they will have to withstand in reality. The structure can be calculated according to different criteria and pressure factors (temperature, water level, earthquakes).
Even after the dam construction is complete, security is of paramount importance. Much of the measuring equipment for a dam communicates the measurements in real-time. Furthermore, there are regular assessment patrols by trained personnel, who undertake visual inspections, more measurements and log and evaluate the measurement values.
Incidentally, an earthquake in Austria also poses no danger for the VERBUND dams. Their construction design would enable them to withstand such lateral force. Moreover, the guidelines from the "Austrian reservoir commission" regarding the possible effects of the strongest known earthquake are already taken into consideration at the planning stage.
As a result of the monitoring, VERBUND receives exact records of how its dam is working. They should and must move according to the operational requirements, however, more or less within the framework of the approved parameters. In this way they can safely fulfil the requirements. The area around the dam and the storage facilities are also monitored and measured. Thus it is possible to also guarantee that geological changes can be quickly spotted and, if necessary, that the essential measurements can be undertaken.
So that the security of the VERBUND dams can be guaranteed 24 hours a day and all year round, there is a dam surveillance team at VERBUND as well as in the northern and southern regions made up of people in charge of the dam with many colleagues on standby as well as a team of construction inspectors present on site. Thus, we guarantee that a competent decision-maker will always be available.
The upkeep of the regulations of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management are monitored and checked through the sub-committee for dam monitoring as well as the dam supervisory body of the respective federal states.
Dams are constructions in nature, which are planned, calculated and erected by people. Of course problems can also occur with a dam, however, the careful planning and constant monitoring guarantees that a disaster can largely be ruled out or averted. With all dams from VERBUND, facilities are present, which allow the water to be controlled and quickly let off in order to reduce the pressure on the construction.
In the worst case and even more improbable scenario of there being a breach and collapse of a dam, the disaster prevention services have corresponding catastrophe contingency plans at the ready. In this case VERBUND would take part in the disaster management services.
When approving run-of-river power plants, particular care is paid to keeping natural conditions, i.e. those present before the construction of the power plant, as unchanged as possible. Run-of-river power plants do not, however, constitute flood prevention.Should the water level downstream from a dam increase due to the large amount of water present, the power plant will cease to generate electricity: the gradient is no longer sufficient for the water to propel the turbines.
In the case of a flood, the power plant control rooms, which are usually controlled from a distance, will be occupied by personnel round the clock in order to be able to react to any possible disruptions as quickly as possible. For every power plant there is an officially approved operating regulation. Therein, the water level in the backwater area is clearly regulated and is to be kept to. The upper water authorities at the Ministry of Life are responsible for this.
Every power plant has a "discharge capacity"- until this capacity is reached the turbines can take in water and generate electricity. If the water capacity is exceeded, weir fields have to be opened in order to let off superfluous water from the backwater area. In this way, the water level in the vicinity of the dam can be decreased. The more the weir fields are opened, the more the water level sinks in the vicinity around the power plant. In the event of large floods, the river continues to flow unhindered, seeing as run-of-river power plants do not have reservoirs which can keep the water back. Thus the phenomenon occurs, where despite the flooding, the water level in the vicinity of the power plant sinks and boats find themselves on dry land.
In the event of a flood, the authorities in charge of crisis management jump into action: the hydrographic services of the state governments are in charge of issuing warnings and have automatic access to the water level data of all power plants.