It is not yet clear what is behind the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam in southern Ukraine. It is also still unclear what the consequences of the obviously willful breach of the structure on the Dnipro will have for the regions downstream – this is also where the former city of Cherson is located, which was liberated by the Ukrainian army last November. Among other things, there is concern about large-scale flooding from the water masses of the Kachowkla reservoir, which has a capacity of around 18 billion cubic meters.
The situation around 140 kilometers upstream is also causing concern. There is the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, with its six reactor blocks the most powerful in Europe. It was occupied by Russian troops shortly after the invasion of Ukraine. The failure of the power supply has already resulted in tricky situations on several occasions, exhausted staff and repeated dangerous military incidents at the plant
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been on site with its own people at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant since September to provide expert support and to be able to assess the situation. In principle, remote monitoring of the reactors is also possible. The Viennese authorities commented on the new situation at the power plant on Tuesday morning – and gave a cautious all-clear. "The IAEA is aware of the damage to the Kakhovka Dam in Ukraine," the statement said. "IAEA experts at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant are closely monitoring the situation. No immediate risk to nuclear safety at the power plant."
IAEA boss Rafael Grossi also addressed the world public. The Argentine explained that the water from the Dnipro is needed to supply the reactors with cooling water. If the level of the reservoir falls below 12.7 meters, the water can no longer be pumped out. At 8 a.m. the level was 16.40 meters. It sinks by about five centimeters per hour and the water is enough for "a few days". The power plant personnel are making every effort to bunker as much water as possible and to reduce the plant's water consumption.
However, there are other sources of water. For example, there is a water basin right next to the reactors, the supplies of which are expected to last a few months, explained Grossi. "It is therefore important that this cooling pool remains intact. Nothing must be done that could potentially compromise its integrity," he stressed. "I appeal to all sides to ensure that nothing is done that endangers them." The IAEA chief announced a trip to Zaporizhia in the coming week. This is "essential".
According to the DPA news agency, the Russian nuclear company Rosenergoatom does not see the power plant affected by the destruction of the dam.
However, Rosenergoatom warned about a month ago that the Kachowka dam could rupture due to flooding. Then the power cables for the pumping station of the cooling systems of the nuclear power plant would be flooded. This poses risks for nuclear safety, said Renat Karchaa, adviser to the general director of Rosenergoatom, according to the media in early May.
After the destruction of the dam, Ukraine sees the world "once again on the brink of a nuclear catastrophe," said presidential adviser Mikhailo Podoliak. The danger grows "rapidly".
The Society for Plant and Reactor Safety (GRS) in Cologne, which specializes in evaluating and improving the safety of nuclear plants, pointed out on Monday that the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant is only connected to the state grid by a single line. A failure of this line could endanger the after-cooling after the power plant has been shut down - in previous incidents, however, according to GRS, the energy requirement could always be reliably satisfied by the company's own electricity (so-called load shedding for own use) or diesel generators.
Source: International Atomic Energy Agency, Society for Plant and Reactor Safety, ZDF-"heute", news agencies DPA and AFP