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Flooding Luleå city: Perspectives on hydropower, mining, dam safety and flood risk governance
Luleå University of Technology, Department of Business Administration, Technology and Social Sciences. (History)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2820-0584
2019 (Swedish)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Luleå city is located downstream of 18 hydropower dams of which the majority are classified as high consequence, meaning that if there is a dam failure, there will be severe consequences downstream. The highest risk for dam failure is when the dams are full, October to about end January each year, i.e. the coldest part of the year. In a worst case scenario water (and ice) levels may rise up to 5-6 meters in the central parts, within less than 48 hours.  Dam safety work entered the international dam sector agenda in the 1970s, after the Teton dam failure in the US. In Sweden, attention to and work with the risk of dam failure began the 1980s, as the hydropower construction era ended.

The recent tailing dam failure in Brasil has drawn public attention to the risks with the dams used to store waste from mines. While a major tailing dam failed in Finland (Talvivaara) in 2013, so far Sweden has been spared from major disasters.

What is so far unknown of in Sweden, and rarely discussed, is the combination of the two systems; tailing dams and hydropower dams in the same river, as well as and the risks and governance complexities thereto associated. Yet this is of importance to the municipality of Luleå with 77 000 inhabitants (2018), and the upstream municipality of Boden, with 28 000 inhabitants (2018),  as since 2011 there are plans for a mine within the Lule River, at Kallak/Gállok, Jokkmokk municipality. This would bring two high consequence systems together, with two different main responsible actors – Vattenfall on the one hand, and the owner of the mine on the other. The public and decision makers have so far had little knowledge/understanding of the risks of such combination.  A similar situation has occurred with the plans for a nickel mine in the hydropower reservoir Gardiken on the Ume River, upstream of several cities and municipalities, where the municipality of Umeå with 127 000 inhabitants (2018) is the biggest.

Based on interviews and participatory observations within four research projects funded by the Swedish research council (VR) and FORMAS (since 2008) I will discuss the complexities in regard to flood governance. Interviews  have been made with local authorities, local inhabitants, power companies representatives as well as dam operators. The two rivers are also within Sámi territories and reindeer herding as well as fishery takes place on and along the rivers. The two rivers are equally important freshwater suppliers for a large amount of inhabitants and animals, as well as important habitat for fish.

Part of this paper was presented as a peer review conference presentation at International Symposium, Changing Times: Infrastructure Development to Infrastructure Management, Seattle, August 14, 2013, International Commission of Large Dams (ICOLD), Öhman, Sandström, Thunqvist (2013). The paper has been further developed within later research projects as described in Acknowledgements.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The original research for this paper was made within the project “DAMMED: Security, risk and resilience around the dams of Sub-Arctica” financed by the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) 2010-2012, Dnr 2009-1736, led by Dr May-Britt Öhman, with the overall aim to analyze the sociotechnical aspects of security, safety and risk in regard to large dams through the integrated lenses of four scientific disciplines: history of science and technology; political science; gender, technology and organization and land and water resource management. Work continues within the research projects FORMAS future research leaders project Safe and sustainable energy futures in Sápmi  FORMAS Dnr 2016-01039; Indigenous Climate Change Studies, FORMAS Dnr 2017-01923, within the Swedish National research programme on climate, both led by Dr May-Britt Öhman, Uppsala University.

Key words:

Hydro power; Dams; Water resources; Dam safety; Mining; Engineering; Management; Tailing dams; Risks; Security; Human security

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019.
Keywords [en]
dam safety, lule river, hydropower, mining, Management, Tailing dams, Hydro power dams
National Category
Humanities and the Arts Social Sciences
Research subject
History
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-76717OAI: oai:DiVA.org:ltu-76717DiVA, id: diva2:1370525
Conference
NESS2019: Social Science in Our Time, Luleå University of Technology,June 9-12, 2019
Projects
Dálkke: Indigenous Climate Change Studies
Funder
Swedish Research Council Formas, Dnr 2017-01923Available from: 2019-11-15 Created: 2019-11-15 Last updated: 2019-11-15

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