A second crack discovered in Costa Rican HEP dam

By Martin Mowforth

In September the Costa Rica Electricity Institution (ICE) announced that a second crack had been discovered in the Reventazón Hydroelectric Dam. ICE officials reported that the crack has appeared in one of the tunnels that links with the reservoir behind the dam and that it could cause a total collapse of the tunnel which would affect the dam’s functioning during repairs.

The first crack was discovered on the reservoir side a few months before the $1.5 billion project was opened in 2016. The dam is an important source of Costa Rica’s energy supply and is often touted as ‘clean’ energy despite the human displacements and ecosystem alterations that such schemes usually cause. Although the ICE boasts about the Reventazón Dam’s productive capacity, it has never lived up to the energy generation levels that were originally projected for it.

The state-owned Costa Rica Electricity Institute (ICE) that operates the facility has been told that the situation requires “urgent and indispensable” action. In December this year [2022] it was reported that international experts were being sought to advise on the issue with the Reventazón dam.

The weekly online paper Tico Times reported that the ICE blames the problems on complex geological problems but also that ICE engineers had acknowledged that they did not understand the nature of these geological problems. When the daily Costa Rican newspaper La Nación asked if the current situation constituted a state of emergency, ICE responded that the situation was “unforeseeable”.