Jinping I hydropower station is located in Sichuan Province in Southwest China. It is built on the Yalong River as a controlling cascade hydropower station in the middle and lower reaches, with power generation as its major function. Jinping I arch dam concerns many engineering issues and has attracted worldwide attentions due to its huge scale and unique settings. It is one of the most challenging projects in China with its 305 meters high arch dam and complex geological conditions for construction, including large-scale tectonic faults, intensively unloaded rock masses and geological asymmetry in its foundation. At present, the concrete arch dam construction has been completed and preliminarily impounded, most of the foundation treatments have been implemented, and four of six generator units had been put into operation in July 2014. In this paper, the analytical methods, design concepts, treatment measures and technical features of strengthening the geological defects in the dam foundation will be presented. Upon geological investigation into the dam foundation, a few large-scale weak discontinuities are observed. The rock masses in the left dam foundation are intensively unloaded, approximately to the horizontal depth of 150–300 m. These serious geological defects lead to a geological asymmetry on the left and right banks, and thus some major difficulties of dam construction are encountered. The influences of geological defects on the dam construction and safety are analyzed comprehensively, followed by the concepts and methods of treatment design. Based on this, the treatment methods of the weak rock masses and discontinuities are carefully determined by numerical analysis and scheme optimization, including the concrete cushion, concrete replacement grids, drainage system, anti-seepage curtains and consolidation grouting, which work together to enhance the strength and integrity of the dam foundation. Evaluations and calibrations through geo-mechanical model tests in combination with field monitoring results in early impoundment period show that the arch dam and its foundation are generally stable and function normally, which suggests that the research methods and treatment design schemes are reasonable and effective. The proposed treatment methods and concepts in the context are helpful for similar complex rock projects.

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