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In this paper, the simulation system of a typical hydroelectric power plant was developed in a MATLAB/Simulink-based software environment, which has a high water head and a long penstock with upstream and downstream surge tanks and is equipped with a Francis turbine. With MATLAB/Simulink, the models of the proposed simulation system are all modularized and visualized, and can be reused easily. No complex codes have been programmed and the proposed simulation system adapts varieties of hydroelectric power plants. The nonlinear characteristics of hydraulic turbine and then inelastic water hammer effect were considered to calculate and simulate hydraulic transients. Moreover, the influences of different parameters, such as hydraulic turbine speed governor proportional-integral-derivative (PID) gains, pressure water supply system, as well as surge tanks, were analyzed for the dynamic performance of hydraulic turbine regulating system. The digital simulations of a sudden full load rejection for an actual hydroelectric power plant in China were performed, and the results indicate that the proposed MATLAB/Simulink-based hydroelectric power plant simulation system is accurate and effective enough to represent and simulate hydroelectric power plant's nonlinear dynamics as well as to design hydraulic turbine speed control system. The proposed simulation system has also been proved to be useful for preliminary designs or assessments of hydropower projects.