Eastern Side of Edenville Dam in Michigan Has Collapsed

On March 19, 2020, the eastern side of Edenville dam collapsed, and it has forced the immediate evacuations in the town of Edenville and the city of Midland. The failure of the dam also posed a threat to the Sanford Dam, about 10 miles downstream of the Edenville Dam and 6 miles upstream of the city of Midland.

UPDATE: The Sanford Dam collapsed as well.

It was an earthen gravity dam was completed in 1925 for hydroelectric power and for flood control. The height is 54 feet, the length is 6,600 feet (2,000 m) at its crest, and it impounds both the Tittabawassee River and its tributary the Tobacco River.

The Wixom Lake was created by the dam. The maximum capacity was about 88 million tons of water.

In 2019, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has issued a preliminary permit to Four Lakes Task Force to study the feasibility of the 6-MW Edenville Dam Hydroelectric Project on the Tittabawassee and Tobacco river system in Michigan.

An existing concrete and steel powerhouse had two 2.4-MW turbine-generator units.

The Sanford Dam generates about 3.4 megawatts of power.

Midland has a population of about 40,000. Edenville has about 2500 people living in it.

Home prices in Midland were about $150,000. If there were 20,000 buildings in Midland then the flooding likely caused about $2 billion in damage.

Fortunately, there are no reports of fatalities.

The deaths per terawatt hour of different energy sources is not impacted.


Energy Source              Death Rate (deaths per TWh)

Coal – world average               161 (26% of world energy, 50% of electricity)
Coal – China                       278
Coal – USA                         15
Oil                                36  (36% of world energy)
Natural Gas                         4  (21% of world energy)
Biofuel/Biomass                    12
Peat                               12
Solar (rooftop)                     0.44 (less than 0.1% of world energy)
Wind                                0.15 (less than 1% of world energy)
Hydro                               0.10 (europe death rate, 2.2% of world energy)
Hydro - world including Banqiao)    1.4 (about 2500 TWh/yr and 171,000 Banqiao dead)
Nuclear                             0.04 (5.9% of world energy)

38 thoughts on “Eastern Side of Edenville Dam in Michigan Has Collapsed”

  1. I remember that previous event with the local river near flood stage around the nuclear plant which ultimately did not flood at the site. What I was asking out loud was, was the site design/selection for Midland done with dam failure in mind as an emergency criterion way back when the site was being developed?

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  2. The ‘few thousand’ is from applying the pessimistic Linear No Threshold model to low dose radiation harm. Any higher figures are BS figures to support an antinuclear agenda.

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  3. Epidemiology analysis gave VERY DIVERGENT results on Chernobyl accident projecting from few thousands deaths (4000+5000 in the 2006 UN report) to a million depending on the reports (Greenpeace). As I said it is much easier to attribute deaths to a dam failing rather than to radiations. Also the fact that most epidemiological analysis were done relatively early after the accident underestimates the phenomenon.

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  4. There was a lot of squawking on anti-nuclear sites about a year or so back about a reactor in Arkansas being in danger from flooding. Nothing happened. However, even with a dam break, you get a lot more warning ( from the heavy rain event ), and the rise in water level is much lower and less violent, than with a tsunami. With even a day’s warning, the residual heat from a shut down core would be half that of one turned off an hour before, and the industry now has emergency gear on site and ready to fly to other locations as needed. Even with a tsunami, waterproofing the safety systems isn’t that difficult – the plants north and south of Fukushima Daichi, (Fukushima Daini and Onegawa), survived the waves with no major damage.

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  5. I’m hoping that in the next decade or so people stop looking at reactors as a sword of Damocles hanging over their heads, and see them for what they are – a very powerful and useful tool, whose benefits far outweigh those of any other energy source. If they don’t, we’re royally screwed.

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  6. The epidemiological analysis has been done. At radiation doses less than 100 mSV per year any harm from radiation is so small it gets lost in the noise of random variations of everything else that is good or bad for health. Anything much under 100 mSV is *not worth worrying about*. Chernobyl is the *only* accident that released enough radiation to expose *some* people to enough radiation to be harmful. Nobody is ever going to build a reactor that poorly designed ever again. Lets build nuclear it is proven safer than other energy sources.
    https://xkcd.com/radiation/

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  7. Water dam failures occur at a rate of roughly 1-in-10,000 per year while the effective failure rate for nuclear reactors is 1 per 3704 reactor year and nuclear accidents will keep the land compromised for decades if not centuries. Furthermore it is much easier to correctly attribute deaths do a dam break rather than to a nuclear accident. Very often it takes epidemiological analysis over decades to assess the real entity of the legality due to radiations (otherwise we should define dam failure casualties only the ones due to the falling concrete and list everyone else as accidental drowning).

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  8. would the site of that partially completed reactor have been inundated by this flooding, since it likely would have used local river cooling?

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  9. Just because you have lumped all reactors together in your mind, does not mean there are not relevant differences between reactor designs. Russian nuclear subs have had what 4 major nuclear accidents? US subs squat. K-19, K-431, K-64, and K-159. And probably more.

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  10. We are not immune from tsunamis, and the extra cost of building a reactor in a fault-zone would easily pay for the power lines from somewhere less seismically active. And there is always doubt and fears which can delay construction and/or shut down the plant early. New faults get detected… Rivers flood too. There was a small reactor along the river where the dam broke. Luckily, they had already shut it down because of the virus.
    We are fighting perception here too. No one wants their beaches or drinking water at risk. I also think if it is in the boonies, it can have a much less extreme decommissioning. Anything not a clear risk can stay there. But prime beach or other shoreline? Everyone is going to want that back.
    District heating does not mesh well with US cities. It works in planned cities with most of the population in high rises. That pretty much describes nowhere in the US. The pipes for this stuff tend to be very large, maybe 15 feet in diameter (running under the street…competing with sewers and subways). Most places where we do have residential high rises have a spaghetti of pipes, cables, conduit, and old foundations all throughout, underground.
    Projects sound like good candidates, but they typically don’t have enough buildings to make it viable.
    Also, in the US, if people heard that their heat was coming from a nuclear reactor, they would choose not to live there or not use the heat and maybe die, or have high electric bills from using electric heaters.

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  11. ‘Other countries are doing it and doing it well..’ No, they’re trying to do it and failing miserably. France installed 63 GW of nuclear, in about twenty years, a generation ago, and at the moment has power emissions less than one seventh as high as Germany’s. Germany installed 108 GW of wind and solar over the last twenty years, and at the moment they’re only producing 3 GW.
    https://www.electricitymap.org/zone/DE?wind=false&solar=false&page=country&countryCode=NZ-NZS

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  12. There is no good reason not to have reactors close to cities, and cooled by ocean water. If you look at the Wikipedia article on a US reactor, it will always say how many people live within ten and fifty miles. None of the hundred-odd extant US reactors has ever harmed a soul outside the plant fence. There is about two and a half times as much coal power capacity, which kills thousands of people every year from particulate and mercury emissions, not to mention all the mining deaths and destruction. Health authorities nowadays do not even advise evacuation if there should be a radiation leak – the evacuation itself would cause far more harm , as it did in Ukraine and Japan. Reactors near cities could be used for local district heating, as they are in parts of Europe, and so further cut greenhouse gas emissions and deaths from dirty air.

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  13. I’d never heard of Midland, Michigan a week ago, but just coincidentally, there was an article about a proposed nuclear plant there, which I read about on the ‘Climate Denial Crock of the Week’ blog, run by Peter Sinclair. Sinclair’s own mother was a prime mover in the opposition to the building of the two reactor project, which Dow Chemical wanted to use for heat and power in the city where it’s headquartered. The plant was abandoned in 1984, when it was 85% complete, and replaced by a 1,600 MW natural gas plant, which is still operating.

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  14. ‘The Chernobyl nuclear disaster will take 20,000 years before it can be inhabited again.’ There are a couple of hundred people living there now – mostly elderly women who sneaked back in. They grow their own vegetables, harvest nuts and mushrooms from the forest, and are generally healthier than the evictees who stayed out. ‘They just spent 90 billion dollars to put a cover over the reactor.. ‘ Divide by thirty – it was about three billion.
    The alternatives to nuclear are all either limited ( hydro and geothermal ), unreliable ( wind and solar ), or will add to the oncoming climate catastrophe ( coal, oil, gas, and biomass. ) They also all have much higher rates of accident and death associated with them than nuclear does.
    As for proliferation dangers, it’s worth noting that many more people died in WW2 from fossil fueled weapons – for example, in the incendiary bombings of Dresden, Hamburg, and just about every city in Japan that wasn’t nuked. Twice as many people were killed in Rwanda just with machetes. And there’s a strong case that the existence of nuclear weapons prevented World Wars 3 and 4.

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  15. Maybe, but there would be a lot more deaths from flooding without these dams. And if you are going to have a dam anyway, you might as well generate electricity with it. It wasn’t making it a power plant that caused it to fail…it was the dam construction, or possibly poorly chosen specifications. If you only plan for 1 in a hundred year event, every year is a 1% likelihood of failure. And by the time it is 100 years old, it has been a cumulative coin flip. Hmm 1925 dam. 95 years old. I wonder what frequency of event it was made for.

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  16. When you say “No reactor in France, the US, Canada, South Korea or Japan would have that kind of “bad day”.”

    I’m sure that is the same thing the designers said about Chernobyi at the time it was built.

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  17. Chernobyl was a bad design. I don’t think even the Russians build like that anymore…though some are still operating (hopefully modified). No reactor in France, the US, Canada, South Korea or Japan would have that kind of “bad day”.
    And despite what you have heard, just 59 people died, most plant workers, and firemen.
    Yes, there were some cases of thyroid cancer (15 deaths…included in the 59 total). Good thing we can cure most of that now: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/thyroid-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/survival-rates.html Those cases of thyroid cancer could have been prevented too, if they had just given everyone iodine immediately after. This need for good iodine immediately after this kind of event was well known at the time. The Russians just did a pathetic job.
    There are people who claim thousands of deaths…but it is all invented.
    You simply do not know how many lives are lost with the other sources of electricity: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2012/06/10/energys-deathprint-a-price-always-paid/#7758e662709b
    (slightly more complete than the one above)
    It is just like jets. We see and hear about the accidents. They are massive stories. But the reality is that they are the safest way to travel.
    If 59 people died in an oil accident…it might not even make the front page.

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  18. That is correct, if it’s man made it will fail. The clean up from a Dam break is quicker and cheeper than a clean up from a nuclear disaster. The Chernobyl nuclear disaster will take 20,000 years before it can be inhabited again. They just spent 90 billion dollars to put a cover over the reactor to keep it from spelling radiation particles into the air, that cover will last only 100 years before it has to be replaced again with even a bigger one.
    It’s best to stay away from using nuclear for energy production as there are so many other good alternatives.

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  19. Those other countries are using a lot of hydroelectric, which is a renewable source. It doesn’t appear to have avoided danger altogether.

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  20. The main problem with nuclear is that one Chernobyi nuclear disaster can ruin your whole day, just ask the people that experienced it close up. Despite all you have read or heard you can not make nuclear 100% safe and there are no small accidents with it, only large ones.

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  21. There are upkeep costs. Solar panels need replaced, wind turbines need replaced…
    Then there is the physical footprint. These things take quite a bit of space. And while photovoltaic is fairly benign, windmills kill birds.
    Then there is the extra cost of energy storage. Wind and solar are fine to certain levels. But they become very expensive if you have to build a lot of storage.
    Nuclear can be very cheap, if some irrational regulations are stripped away, If they don’t insist on getting the entire cost of decommissioning very early, and they build very large reactors. The physical footprint is nearly the same for very large reactors as small reactors. The more energy they make, the more quickly they can pay for their development and construction.
    There have been 2 reactor disasters on the planet. One a terrible design, and one as a result of a tsunami. You design well, and you don’t put it where tsunamis are likely. Three Mile Island just ruined the reactor. Zero deaths, no increase in cancer. Even at Fukushima no one died as a result of radiation, just typical industrial stuff that could have happened at any fossil fuel power plant hit by a tsunami.
    We shut down all new starts of nuclear power in the US after Three Mile Island. If we hadn’t we would have saved lives a lot of lives, and global warming would probably be at half its current increase. If we had gone to say 60% nuclear, it would not just be the US, other countries would have copied us.

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  22. We had a nuclear melt down in the US at Three Mile Island. And nobody died. That’s because in the US, we use containment structures.

    But the next generation of small reactors will have cores that are too small to ever meltdown.

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  23. Or better yet go with renewable sources and avoid the dangers altogether. Other countries are doing it and doing it well, why can’t we ??

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  24. Hydroelectric power is excellent, and the dams generally reduce flooding rather than making it worse. There just is no way to make enough hydro to power everything. And some beautiful valleys/canyons you don’t want to turn into lakes like the Grand Canyon. And you don’t want to block everything because some species rely on the more turbulent/warmer water.
    There are a number of large dams in the US that are not designed to generate power. Those can be converted or replaced to generate power.
    But we certainly need a lot more nuclear. We should triple nuclear power in the US. Though we should put it in safe locations even if we need to run power lines long distances. Use man made lakes to cool them and avoid using cooing water from rivers or the oceans (there are exceptions like Florida where manatees really appreciate the warm water, and there is trivial earthquake risk). If there is an emergency, you want to limit the effects on the environment and population centers. They should be built where earthquakes are limited to 7 or less on the Richter scale (unless they float). But with very high voltage power lines this is not difficult or inefficient.

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  25. So I just looked at the Banqiao dam failure. It sounds like a poorly built structure compared to other similar projects of its era.

    It seems only fair that nuclear gets a second line item in the deaths-per-terawatt-hour list that removes any casualties associated with the events at Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi for the same reason. Or just drop the hydro line that discounts a major failure of the tech for no other reason then optics.

    How do you like that ya greens :p

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  26. Anything can have a lethal failure. From the table near the bottom of the post, you can see that nuclear’s failures are less lethal than the failures of other energy sources. So I would rather live next to a nuclear electricity generator than another type of electricity generator

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  27. But nuclear power was not included in the article.
    Unless you mean one word right down the bottom of the list of all significant power generation methods.

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  28. Hm, this article is stretching the criteria for inclusion in this site. Has big impact on the future..? One small dam collapsing..?

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  29. Strong opinions does not necessarily mean paid opinions. Although I do think the inclusion of nuclear power in this article seems a bit forced.

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  30. The blogger is being paid by the nuclear industry to use Chinese propaganda methods and industry made numbers to promote nuclear energy and vilify all other forms of energy generation.

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