IAEA experts monitoring situation following collapse of Nova Kakhovka dam
There is no immediate safety threat to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station from the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam, according to Ukrainian and UN experts.
The Ukrainian nuclear energy corporation, Energoatom, released a statement saying the situation at the six-unit facility, about 200 km upstream of the dam to the northeast, was “under control”.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, said on social media its experts at the site were monitoring the situation and there was “no immediate nuclear safety risk” from the collapse of the dam, to the east of Kherson on the Dnipro river, near the Black Sea coast.
From March to November 2022, Kherson was occupied by Russian forces. Ukrainian forces recaptured the city on 11 November 2022.
Five of the reactors are in “cold shutdown” turned off completely and being cooled and one is in “hot shutdown”, kept at 200-250 degrees Celsius, so that it would be easier to restart when conditions allowed, and to supply hot water to the neighbouring town of Enerhodar.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear station has a cooling lake, about two or three kilometres in diameter.
The Energoatom statement said the cooling lake was filled and was at a level 16.6 metres, “which is sufficient for the power plant’s needs”.
Energoatom president Petro Kotin said on the Telegram social media channel that a drop in the water level in the Kakhovka reservoir “does not directly affect the drop in the water level in the Zaporizhzhia cooling lake”.
Press reports quoted Mariana Budjeryn, a Ukrainian nuclear scientist, as saying: “The fact that there’s an artificial pond next to the ZNPP where water can be maintained above the reservoir level and the fact that the reactors are in cold shutdown, offers some reassurance and increased time to respond if the ZNPP starts getting affected.”
Station Is ‘Staffed Down To Bare Bones’
Budjeryn, who is senior research associate at Harvard University, said: “The bigger problem – who is going to do it? ZNPP is already down staffed to bare bones.”
In an unrelated incident in February the IAEA said it experts at Zaporizhzhia reported that the water level in the Kakhovka reservoir has been reducing. However, by design, the large cooling pond next to the Zaporizhzhia reactor units is kept above the level of the Kakhovka reservoir.
“Even though the decreased water level does not pose an immediate threat to nuclear safety and security, it may become a source of concern if it is allowed to continue,” IAEA director-general Rafael Grossi said at the time.
“It again shows the many potential risks for this major nuclear plant during the war and underlines that we must never become complacent about its safety and security,” Grossi said.
The Ukrainian government has accused Russia of blowing up the Nova Kakhovka dam on the Dnipro river, and called for people living downstream to evacuate in the face of catastrophic flooding.
Aerial footage circulated on social media showing most of the dam wall washed away and a massive surge of water heading downstream.