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Tunnel Boring Machine Completes Hole Under Niagara Falls 193

Posted by Soulskill
from the also-known-as-geohacking dept.
abhatt writes with news that "Big Becky," a 4,000-ton tunnel boring machine, has finished chewing through over 10 kilometers of rock underneath Niagara Falls, Ontario, a project that's been underway since 2006. "The 10.2 kilometer tunnel is 14.4 meters in diameter. Big Becky ate through 1.6 million cubic meters of rock to reach her goal. That’s enough rock, officials said, to fill the Rogers Centre in Toronto. And the cement used to line the tunnel would build a sidewalk stretching from Windsor to Quebec City. ... The project took longer and cost more because Becky ran into unexpected conditions. She’s designed to go through solid rock, but encountered a stretch of loose, crumbling material that was unsuitable for tunneling. That forced a long and expensive detour."
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Tunnel Boring Machine Completes Hole Under Niagara Falls

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  • Why they drilled that tunnel.
    • by codegen (103601) on Monday May 16, 2011 @06:32PM (#36146210) Journal
      Divert water from the Niagara river to the Adam Beck generating Station. More Hydro Electric Power.
    • by MrEricSir (398214) on Monday May 16, 2011 @06:33PM (#36146236) Homepage

      ...it's boring.

    • by grantek (979387)

      The machine sounds pretty boring...

    • by MaXintosh (159753)
      That's fine, because I did RTFA to find out, except no where in the article did they say what it was for. All we know is that they dug a very big hole, and they used a load of cheesy metrics to compare.
      • by sconeu (64226)

        Can someone provide a translation between "Rogers Centers" and a unit of measurement that I'm more familiar with, such as a VW Beetle?

        • by MaXintosh (159753)
          How many Football Fields per television season(Germany) did it move? And could they provide the concrete surface in upper-east side Manhattan apartment floor equivalents? Inquiring minds want to know. I know the calculations are difficult, but with modern computers able to handle thousands of Libraries of Congress per commercial flight from New York to L.A., I'm sure they could have managed it.
        • by bronney (638318)

          A "Rogers Centers" exactly equals one "SkyDome"!

      • by Walzmyn (913748)

        They also didn't include a map. I mean, c'mon, if you're talking about a 10 freaking mile long man-made hole in the ground isn't a map showing it's route a pretty damned obvious thing to think that a reader would want to see?

      • actually, the article while not saying what it was for kind of hinted at it:

        "She was greeted by Premier Dalton McGuinty, on hand to trumpet his government’s commitment to clean renewable power, even though the project is coming in two years late, and costing $1.6 billion instead of the $985 million budgeted."

        Clean renewable power + niagara falls = hydro power

      • That's fine, because I did RTFA to find out, except no where in the article did they say what it was for. All we know is that they dug a very big hole, and they used a load of cheesy metrics to compare.

        And now you understand why most of us don't waste our time RTFA!

        Anyway, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

    • by timeOday (582209)
      Surprisingly, the article doesn't even say why they drilled it, other than it being related to energy production.

      IMHO Niagara falls is a compelling model of how NOT to do conservation. It's littered with tacky tourist traps. (Just like what was attempted at most protected sites in the US before Teddy Roosevelt came along).

    • Also, IT'S NOT FUCKING CEMENT, IT'S CONCRETE.

      Cement is an ingredient of concrete. It is not the finished product. Calling concrete "cement" is as stupid as calling clothing "cotton", or calling a sandwich "mayonnaise". Once you apply the mayonnaise to bread and add some lunchmeat, your creation has become a sandwich, and it is no longer simply mayonnaise.

      Yeah, I get that fucking irritated by this.

      AND SO SHOULD YOU.

      • by haruchai (17472) on Monday May 16, 2011 @06:54PM (#36146518)

        I guess you believe you have concrete reasons to be annoyed but your rant has likely cemented opinions that you're over-sensitive.

        • by Speare (84249)
          He's taking the Slashdot community's helpful behavior for granite. It's not like we're rude individually, but you could say we're rude in the aggregate.
      • by Tumbleweed (3706) *

        And people don't program in "assembler" any more than they program in "compiler". It's called "assembly language".

        This post brought to you by Pedantic-Man(tm)!

        FYI - Pedantic-Man(tm) (don't forget the hyphen, kids!) prefers putting the period or comma OUTSIDE the quotation marks for both aesthetic and pattern-matching reasons. Have a nice day!

      • One more misleading bit, especially in the title: the tunnel goes under the city of Niagara Falls, not the falls themselves.
        • Those silly Canadians. If you're in Niagara Falls, why would you build a tunnel for a hydroelectric project under the city instead of under the waterfall?
      • What do you call it if you don't put in any aggregate?

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        Someone eats a tuna sandwich and you ask him what he's eating and he says "tuna". Some people call their sidewalks "cement sidewalks" because cement is indeed a principle ingredient and the meaning is very unambiguous here in context. Everyone knows what they mean. In summary, there can be more than one word for the same thing!!

        This is all a part of the English language. It evolves over time and words change their meaning and the majority of people learn to live with. To me it is unfathomable why someo

      • by blair1q (305137)

        Pretty sure if you use enough concrete to build a sidewalk from Poughkeepsie to Chickautagua, you're going to need enough cement to build a sidewalk from Poughkeepsie to Chickautagua.

        The point is, nobody has any fucking idea how much that is, even though it's broken down to grade-school metaphors...

      • Technically it's cement concrete. As opposed to asphalt concrete, or other concretes using some other type of binder.

      • by pongo000 (97357)

        Also, IT'S NOT FUCKING CEMENT, IT'S CONCRETE.

        This message brought to you by the American Concrete Institute [concrete.org]: Advancing concrete knowledge!

    • Why did the driller drill the tunnel?

      To get to the other side!

    • by jittles (1613415)

      Why they drilled that tunnel.

      I RTFA and I didn't see anything explaining why they dug the tunnel.

    • Why they drilled that tunnel.

      To make it easier to smuggle pot, copyright infringing bootlegs & child porn; Does anyone do anything for any other reason?
      --Friendly neighborhood MPAA/RIAA Goon

    • Why they drilled that tunnel.

      Which is good, because I did, and it didn't say.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Because they could.

    • by Dan541 (1032000)

      Because it was something to do, why else?

    • by bryan1945 (301828)

      You beat me to it. I broke down and read the article. You know that thing they teach about writing? Like HAVING A TOPIC?! Oy.

  • by DanTheStone (1212500) on Monday May 16, 2011 @06:25PM (#36146106)
    It's a sustainable energy project, not that anyone would have guessed that based on the summary.
    • by mcmonkey (96054)

      It's a tunnel for sneaking foreigners under the border, not that anyone would have guessed that based on the summary.

      Looks like it's time to build a wall. Anyone know where I can get some cheap labor?

    • by afidel (530433)
      So is the power going into the NYC power conduit or into Lake Erie transmission loop? Despite the amount of clean power being generated 200 miles from my house (400 miles closer than to NYC) I have some of the dirtiest power in North America, making the switch from an efficient gas vehicle to a plugin hybrid a net loss for the environment.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Slashdot is an American site, we don't need any Metric measurements like "Rogers Center"s. How many Libraries of Congresses can it fill?

    • Re:"Rogers Center"s? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Drooling Iguana (61479) on Monday May 16, 2011 @06:30PM (#36146190)

      There's no such thing as a "Rogers Centre." It's called SkyDome and will always be called SkyDome.

      • Thanks for clarifying that. Nobody knows what the Rogers Center is. Now, Skydome has a meaning. Rogers Center means nothing to me. And it will change name as soon as a new sponsor shows up. I think people should boycott those sponsored names and keep calling structures a true non-changeable name. Whatever the sponsoring says. Sadly, it will never be the case of journalists who have to cater to sponsors.

      • by Yvan256 (722131)

        A rock inside the SkyDome is worth about 1 cent. A rock inside the Rogers Centre is worth about 10 dollars.

      • by Combatso (1793216)
        Well, since its currently the Rogers centre, you can't fill it with rock.. You can put 60 ton of rock in, and each adition ton will cost you $2.50.
    • Yeah! And what's this "And the cement used to line the tunnel would build a sidewalk stretching from Windsor to Quebec City" crap? What kind of measurement is that? Empire State Building! Hoover Dam! Highways! That's how you compare concrete use here in America! Not with fucking sidewalks!

  • by SashaMan (263632) on Monday May 16, 2011 @06:30PM (#36146184)

    You'd think they would explain, you know, WHY THEY BUILT THE TUNNEL. They explain it's a "sustainable energy project", but they don't actually explain how the tunnel is used or what exactly it's for.

  • Booooring. (Score:2, Funny)

    by goodmanj (234846)

    I always said Canadians were boring.

  • by Vitriol+Angst (458300) on Monday May 16, 2011 @06:46PM (#36146406)

    Kind of funny that it ran into a timely detour because it hit a spot that WASN'T solid rock.

    Amazing that level of optimization fails due to loose dirt.

    • by haruchai (17472)

      Guess none of them saw "The Core"

    • You'd think by now there would be a standard way to drill loose material. (For example, I've heard of projects injecting water and freezing it, then dig through the ice-mix. But there must be a better solution by now; a recoverable geopolymer, injectable, texture of chalk when set?)
      • by Jartan (219704)

        I would think drilling through loose material would be easy. Isn't the problem more about stopping the ceiling from dumping more material into the spot you just emptied?

        • by blair1q (305137)

          It's the stuff constantly dumping on the top of the borer instead of falling and being sucked up by its front end. These things run on rails, so except for the first few meters their workspace needs to be relatively clean.

          It's also much harder to stabilize loose stuff for use as a tunnel, and almost impossible to trust your load calculations. Nice, hard rock eliminates all that. Just throw in some cleats, spray on the gunite to seal cracks and prevent loose crap from becoming debris, and go to lunch.

    • But other tunnel boring projects do anticipate this sort of thing. I'll point to the city of Seattle and Washington state, which plan to replace an elevated freeway with a deep bore tunnel. Not through solid rock, but through glacial till material that is the equivalent of mixed dirt and gravel. Apparently the tunnel engineers don't think it will be a big problem to drill through it. (It will be hard on the drills themselves, but they can do it.) I think they're more concerned about the tunnel collapsi

      • by PPH (736903)

        I think they're more concerned about the tunnel collapsing afterwards.

        Not really a problem if you anticipate soft ground when selecting boring equipment. It sounds like the Niagara equipment was designed for hard rock boring. In some senses, these are the simplest machines as they don't have to balance the ground pressure. In some cases, it is not necessary to line a hard rock tunnel immediately after the boring operation.

        Soft ground boring equipment is designed to maintain ground pressure balance and install tunnel lining as they proceed.

    • by Mashiki (184564)

      I'm not surprised. Then again anyone that's lived in Ontario and parts of NY/MI for most of their life already know that dirt varies from a few feet deep to several dozen feet deep or more. There's that whole 'scraped the topsoil off the canadian shield for several thousand km' thing and dumped it here thing that I guess these guys didn't look into.

    • Kind of funny that it ran into a timely detour because it hit a spot that WASN'T solid rock.

      Amazing that level of optimization fails due to loose dirt.

      What's so funny or amazing about it? If you drill a hole through loose dirt, it ceases to be a hole seconds later. This has nothing to do with 'optimization'.

    • by owlstead (636356)

      Try tunneling under Amsterdam and see what muck is like to drill through :( The new metro line is already about 5 years overdue (not to mention way the added 1000 million of costs).

    • by Mspangler (770054)

      "Kind of funny that it ran into a timely detour because it hit a spot that WASN'T solid rock."

      Actually, "incompetent rock" is a long-standing problem in mining. Definition 4

      incompetent
      adj
      1. not possessing the necessary ability, skill, etc. to do or carry out a task; incapable
      2. marked by lack of ability, skill, etc.
      3. (Law) Law not legally qualified an incompetent witness
      4. (Earth Sciences / Geological Science) (of rock strata, folds, etc.) yielding readily to pressure so as to undergo structural deformatio

  • The 10.2 kilometer tunnel is 14.4 meters in diameter. Big Becky ate through 1.6 million cubic meters of rock to reach her goal.

    Those sneaking Canadians digging a drug smuggling tunnel. It's either that or they plan to sneak their armies across the border and invade.

    One of those.

    • by c6gunner (950153)

      It's either that or they plan to sneak their armies across the border and invade.

      Replace "armies" with "platoon" and your comment might actually make sense ...

    • by mjwx (966435)

      The 10.2 kilometer tunnel is 14.4 meters in diameter. Big Becky ate through 1.6 million cubic meters of rock to reach her goal.

      Those sneaking Canadians digging a drug smuggling tunnel. It's either that or they plan to sneak their armies across the border and invade.

      One of those.

      Six platoons of mounties are on their way to polite you into submission.

  • by PPH (736903)

    That's enough rock, officials said, to fill the Rogers Centre in Toronto.

    So then its filled, right?

  • would stop with the stupid comparisons. The miners had enough puss in their blisters to fill a 1998 Toyota Tercel. There was enough media their to impeach a president. God when can we trust people to understand units of measurements without comparing it to something that would never happen (like filling a sports stadium with rock (unless it is AC/DC in the 80's then it could happen).
  • "That’s enough rock, officials said, to fill the Rogers Centre in Toronto. And the cement used to line the tunnel would build a sidewalk stretching from Windsor to Quebec City."

    The Americans, Burmese and Liberians have imperial, the rest of the world has metric. But now we have RogerCentre's as units of volume and Windsor-to-Quebec units of distance to understand when dealing with Canucks?

    • I take you're not familiar with The Registers system of units. Volume can be measured in Bulgarian airbags, Bulgarian funbags, Olympic swimming pools, etc.
    • by Combatso (1793216)
      Since the SkyDome (Rogers Centre) was built in the 80's all its measurments were done in Metric.. Therefor, a Rogers Centre is a metric measurment.. We have Rogers Centremeters, Rogers Centrelitres and Rogers Centreminutes (a unit of time established by how long it takes to open the roof).
  • by Animats (122034) on Monday May 16, 2011 @09:48PM (#36148224) Homepage

    It's a feed tunnel for the Sir Adam Beck power plant [opg.com] below the falls. It's the third tunnel built for that purpose, and adds 194MW of generating capacity.

    There's so much plumbing in place at Niagara Falls that the falls can almost be turned off. There's a minimum water flow over the falls established by international agreement, but that's for aesthetics. At night, and during the tourist off season, more water is run through the hydroelectric plants.

    Back in the 1980s, some boater was upstream of the falls, closer than he should have been, and lost power. He managed to run aground upstream of the falls. This was noticed at the Niagara Mohawk power plant control room, where an operator opened all feed and diversion tunnels and closed gates at the upstream weir, shutting off most of the falls until a rescue crew could fetch the boater.

  • by JanneM (7445)

    Why did they detour for gravel? All you need to do is dig out the bottom block, then quickly place a torch on the floor. All the gravel above will be disintegrated as it falls onto the torch. They're professionals; aren't they supposed to know this sort of thing?

  • Thatâ(TM)s enough rock, officials said, to fill the Rogers Centre in Toronto. And the cement used to line the tunnel would build a sidewalk stretching from Windsor to Quebec City.

    So I guess that's a large volume and a long distance, respectively? Whatever. Could be a strip mall and two neighboring towns for all I know. ;-)

  • That's a picture of a crashed UFO (plus a couple of Canadians who found it).
  • "Boring: see engineer." -- from the Yellow Pages...

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