Good Judgement Open might have you covered here; see:
Will China's Three Gorges Dam fail before 1 October 2020?.
Current crowd probability: 3%. (note the timeline).
Some comments I've curated from that question:
https://asiatimes.com/2020/07/three-gorges-dam-deformed-but-safe-say-operators/ Release appears to be controlled. https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2020/07/23/China-braces-for-impact-after-mass-flooding-at-Three-Gorges-Dam/2221595525864/
Revising today after considering this further. The chance that the country doesn't divert water to prevent the dam from failing, even if upstream dams burst, seems very slim.
There have been heavy rains in the region which continue as of the time of writing. The dam is 181m high and the design maximum water level is 176m. Dams are designed to last hundreds of years, though climate change could mean that the original design assumptions have become outdated. There is a very slight chance of the dam "failing" within the next few months and releasing a sudden rapid uncontrolled flow downstream - just above zero.
Some reports say the dam was built to hold 145 meters of water but actually that figure refers to the level at which water is released downstream in order to smooth out flood flows and maintain capacity in the reservoir. Discharge in recent days and weeks has been between 20 and 30 thousand cumecs, but this has gone up to 40k in the past, so there is still some cushion. Probably the greatest risk is of failure of one or more major dams upstream, unleashing a flood surge that could overtop the dam.
(Says a civil engineer)
This is a gravity dam, and it relies upon the construction itself to stand. It was 50 ft Above flood level. I see this as a concern without being a high probability event.
This question talks about the failure of a $ 32 Billion project completed in 2012. We have roughly 9 weeks from today till when the question is resolved.
5% for Yes is a good baseline to start.
While the dam is currently holding more water than it is designed for, water can always be released if things get bad. The reason why they would be holding more water is in order to prevent the catchment areas from getting flooded.
This looks unlikely, but how unlikely seems difficult to estimate: on the one hand, quality of construction in China is poor and cutting corners is a way of life. On the other this is a flagship project, which means that there must have been stringent quality controls (in contrast with the standard situation in China).
Unfortunately this is inside view. I did not try to make a historic review of dams failing around the world or in China. However the Banqiao dam failure in 1975 readily comes to mind:
and catastrophic floods have been a common recurrence along Chinese history.
There were 3,523 incidents of dam failure from 1954 to 2013 (He et al. 2008; Zhao 2014) that caused significant loss of life and economic losses in china.
This averages out to 67 dam failures, of various sizes per year. There are approx 87,000 dams in total. Given this, the three gorges dam broadly speaking has .08 chance of failing this year. There is significant flooding atm, which could increase probability of failure, but the concrete dam wall is 181 m (594 ft) high above the rock basis and has a max capacity water level of 175 m (wiki)
Water level currently seems to be at 145-7 m from the articles I can find, which is well within capacity.
The dam has passed quality checks, is a relatively new project (old dams fail more often) and there's a large amount of research done on seismic activity in the area. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1674984715300756; https://journal.probeinternational.org/2014/04/07/three-gorges-dam-triggers-frequent-seismic-activities/
There are rumors of buckling and deformation and a google earth image going around (https://www.foxnews.com/world/integrity-of-chinas-three-gorges-dam-questioned-despite-china-officials-dismissing-it-as-safe) but I looked myself, and google earth currently shows shows no buckling, nor could I find any inconsistencies, so Ima say probs not, image seems fake.
Long story short, is the dam gonna prevent flooding downstream? Maybe not, its effectiveness at doing so seems questionable based off the articles. This, however, isn't the issue at hand. We're asking is the worlds largest dam gonna fail in the next three months after passing safety checks, having research available about seismic activity in the area and currently within capacity? Highly unlikely. If upstream dams start to fail and/or if water levels breach capacity, then it gets more likely. But til then, low low chance.
One of the things I've been thinking of....dam failure means any amount of water that they didn't intend to let through passing the dam. So Im wondering, is there a higher percent chance of something small happening (whups, a couple gallons seeped through, or we lost a couple thousand gallons over the edge, our bad) or is it an all or nothing deal where when she goes, she goes, rip wuhan.
Good point on the time it takes for flood level to get there. Also, thinking of ways it could potentially fail, I could conceivably imagine a scenario where the dam is at or slightly over capacity due to flooding, seismic activity happens thats unprecedented and the concrete slips off the bottom rock. There's history of other large concrete dams doing so (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4997708/) but seems to be only at filling?
There's also this article: https://asiatimes.com/2020/07/three-gorges-dam-deformed-but-safe-say-operators/ which is recent and does mention some deformation to 'non structural parts of the dam' I don't exactly know what that means lol.
And then finally, there was one scientist dude who has been talking about failure for a while, but stating cracks in the concrete during early stages of the building process and instances of substandard concrete, not buckling as the internet seems intent on portraying lol. https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/threegorges-safety-07082019085631.html
Ah, one more thing: https://damsafety.org/dam-failures#:~:text=Dam failures are most likely,the top of a dam.&text=National statistics show that overtopping,of all U.S. dam failures. The way dams are most likely to fail (this is US based, but i read a scientific study about chinese dams that was saying the same things) overtopping number one reason of failure, within the very low percentage chance of a dam failing. Slipping second most likely. So if the dam does fail, it's most likely gonna either overfill or slip.
Will be good to pay attention to water levels upstream, precipitation, and how much output their letting through in anticipation.
This is a topic I have some subject-knowledge on, and I think the question requires clarification:
The Forestry reference to "sudden, rapid, and uncontrolled release of impounded water" is included in their definition of “Dam failure” and the key element of the failure is the release of the impounded water.
The dam is designed to manage a 1:100 year flood, derived statistically, by having the impoundment reserve capacity and controlled discharge of this amount of water. Floods greater than the 1:100 year value are managed by the sluice gates, turbine channel flow and, ultimately, by the dam’s spillway. The spillway is the lowest part of the dam crest and is designed to permit much larger flows (beyond the “Probable Maximum Flood”)
As defined, I think the question asks whether there will be a failure of the dam which releases the water impounded below the spillway level, e.g., structural/geotechnical failure, undermining or uncontrolled bypass, which is highly unlikely. However, the question may be interpreted to ask whether the dam will be ‘overtopped’, with uncontrolled, rapid release over the spillway – which is quite probable this year.
BTW the dam was built to reduce the frequency of flooding downstream, where millions have died from flooding of the Yangtze River. From a flood risk management perspective the dam is small at 1:100 year capacity. Negative press in competing or developed countries focussed on displacing 1.3M people in the interest of power production, not on flood risk management. Also, “The Interpreter” article is accurate in describing older dams in China (and around the world) as being potential ‘black swans’: these dams were often not designed to spill “probable maximum floods” and their failures may well jeopardize life downstream.
The dam is already controversial, so any story on it will be far reaching and potentially exaggerated. The Chinese have admitted to some movement to the dam but say it's within normal parameters. While under scrutiny for COVID and struggling with it's international image I'd like to think that evacuations would be in place if the risk was high. Because this may be a naive thought and catastrophic accidents have occurred in the past due to bureaucratic failings in similar regimes (think Chernobyl), I have input 2%.
The 3GD is a gravity dam, but the blocks are resting on the riverbed, not dug in. This is causing deformation throughout the structure. Construction is likely shoddy and the quality team that inspected the dam were from the same company that built it - not independently done. The CCP came out yesterday(?) to say that there is some deformation in the dam, but nothing to worry about. This alone from the CCP is unusual. In my estimation, the CCP would rather flood Wuhan downstream than see their flagship fall. That said, they may not have a choice.
As the heavy rains in the region continue, water is making its way back into the Yangtze and thus the reservoir. Not all of the rain we've seen in the past has yet entered the reservoir. The water level is already at 164m, 175m is the warning of collapse, 185m and it's gone. The final and most likely catastrophic failure is the spillways being damaged - we're seeing this on at least two of the spillways on the livestream. A large chunk appears to be broken off spillway #6 and there is evidence of cavitation in spillway #2. If the damage to the spillways continues, the dam will fail, and badly.
(This last comment is from a new and unexperienced forecaster, with a Brier score worse than the aggregate. He still only gives 15%)
My own impression is that the aggregate seems correct, i.e., a 1:30 bet seems roughly fair.
I also somewhat disagree with "It is worth examining even if the risk is small;" it seems to me that decisions will be taken by the CCP, and that there is probably no leverage to be found here.