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ITAIPU. The stone that sings
In 1973, technicians cross the river in search of the most suitable point for the construction of the Binational Itaipu. The place is chosen after conducting studies with the support of a raft. In the heart of South America, Brazilians and Paraguayans indicate a section of the river known as Itaipu, which, in Tupi, means "the rock that sings."
In that place was an island, almost always submerged, called Itaipu, just after a sharp curve of river, where the current seemed to measure forces with the ravines and a few kilometers from the confluence with the Iguaçu River. Studies indicated an exceptional energy yield for that point, due to a long canyon excavated by the Paraná River
The first step of an epic
The construction of Itaipu Binacional - considered a work of Hercules by Popular Mechanics magazine of the United States - began in 1974, with the arrival of the first machines to the future construction site.
In the second half of 1974, the pioneer camp was built, with the first buildings for offices, warehouse, refectory, lodging and fuel station, that exists until today.
A city called ITAIPU
The region begins to turn into a human "anthill". Between 1975 and 1978, more than 9 thousand homes were built on both sides to house the men who work on the site. Even a hospital is built to serve the workers. At the time, Foz do Iguaçu was a city with only two asphalted streets and about 20 thousand inhabitants, in ten years, the population passes to 101.447 inhabitants.
At construction sites, the first task is to change the course of the Paraná River, removing 55 million cubic meters of land and rock to excavate a deviation of 2 km. Engineer Gomurka Sarkaria is responsible for the model of the dam, gravity-relieved type, forming openings that resemble the structure of a cathedral.
The "Paranazão" departs from the bed
Itaipu Binacional becomes an irreversible reality. The excavation of the Paraná River diversion ends on schedule. In 20 October 1978, 58 tons of dynamite blow up the two cofferdams that protected the construction of the new course.
The deviation has 2 km extension, 150 meters wide and 90 depth. On the same day, a US $ 800 million contract is signed to guarantee the purchase of turbines and turbo-generators. The new canal allows the stretch of the original river bed to be dried, to build the main dam in concrete.
Itaipu Binacional was the only major national work to go through the most acute phase of the Brazilian economic crisis of the late 1970 years maintaining absolute priority status.
A building of 10 floors per hour, ITAIPU rhythm
A new and buoyant stage of the construction of Itaipu Binacional begins: the concreting of the dam. In a single day, 14 of November of 1978, are released in the work 7.207 cubic meters of concrete, a South American record, the equivalent of a building of ten floors every hour. Or 24 buildings on the same day. The feat was only achieved due to the use of seven overhead cables to launch concrete.
The total concrete dumped at the dam, 12,3 million cubic meters, would be enough to make four highways the size of the Transamazon. The economy of Paraguay flies in the sky of Brigadier: GDP, which had increased 5% in 1975, grows 10,8% in 1978.
All roads lead to ITAIPU
The work gains contours of a warlike operation. At 1980, the transportation of materials to the Itaipu Binational mobilized 20.113 trucks and 6.648 railway wagons. Already the demand for labor causes huge queues in the centers of sorting of the consortia.
Between 1978 and 1981, up to 5 thousand people were hired per month. Throughout the work, due to the extensive construction period and the labor turnover, only the Unicon consortium registered about 100 thousand workers. At the peak of the construction of the dam, Itaipu mobilized directly around 40 thousand workers at the construction site and in the support offices in Brazil and Paraguay.
Neither the roads expected a work of this greatness
With concreting almost ready, the next phase is the assembly of the generating units. Transporting entire parts from manufacturers to the mill becomes a challenge. The first wheel of the turbine, with 300 tons, left São Paulo in 4 of December of 1981 and arrived at the construction site only in 3 of March of 1982.
Since the road network and some existing bridges in several alternatives of route were not able to support the weight, the cart that took the piece had to cross the long way, with 1.350 km. The transportation of the turbine wheels would gain agility later. The record was 26 days of travel between the factory and the plant.
The Paraná River meets a concrete wall, ITAIPU
Work on the dam comes to an end in October of 1982. But the work at Itaipu does not stop. The closing of the diversion channel gates, for the formation of the reservoir of the plant, begins the operation Mymba Kuera (which in Tupi-Guarani means "catcher"). The operation saves the lives of 36.450 animals that lived in the area to be flooded by the lake. Due to heavy rains and floods of the time, the Paraná River currents took 14 days to fill the reservoir. The water blade adds 135 thousand hectares, or four times the size of Guanabara Bay.
The 5 of November of 1982, with the reservoir already formed, the presidents of Brazil, João Figueiredo, and of Paraguay, Alfredo Stroessner, activate the mechanism that automatically raises the 14 floodgates of the spillway, liberate the dammed water of the Paraná River and, thus , officially inaugurate the largest hydroelectric plant in the world, after more than 50 thousand hours of work.
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