Kinematic and block theory analyses for shiplock slopes of the three Gorges dam site in China

J. G. Um, P. H.S.W. Kulatilake

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41 Scopus citations


The granitic rock mass that exists in the shiplock region of the Three Gorges dam site contains a number of major discontinuities and about four sets of minor discontinuities. One hundred and thirty three major discontinuities have been mapped around the shiplock covering an area of 1740 × 600 m. These major discontinuities were used to perform rock slope kinematic and block theory analyses. Kinematic analyses were performed under the following two cases: (1) assuming all the mapped discontinuities cross the shiplock; (2) using only discontinuities that actually intersect the shiplock. Under case (1) and case (2) the shiplock faces in the proposed permanent shiplock region in fresh rock were found to be stable up to a cut slope of about 45° and 58°, respectively. Block theory was applied to identify different block types that exist on the shiplock faces and to estimate the maximum safe slope angles on the shiplock faces. The orientations of the major discontinuities that actually intersect the shiplocks were considered in this analysis. The total length of the shiplock (1750 m) was divided into 50 m segments. From the stereo-plots, the key blocks (Type I) and/or potential key blocks (Type I) were found for only five segments of the shiplock slopes. It was found that the dip of the cut slope should be less than about 60° to avoid creation of a key block on the proposed shiplock slopes. However, it is important to keep in mind that these conclusions are based on the kinematic analyses performed using only the major discontinuities. Further kinematic as well as kinetic analyses are recommended incorporating minor discontinuities, water forces, earthquake forces etc. before making the final conclusions about the maximum safe slope angle for the shiplock region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-42
Number of pages22
JournalGeotechnical and Geological Engineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001


  • Block theory
  • Kinematic analysis
  • Rock slope stability
  • Shiplocks
  • Three Gorges project

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Architecture
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Soil Science
  • Geology


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