kyiv – The water reserves of the Kakhovka dam, damaged in southern Ukraine, are no longer enough to cool the reactors of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, the operator of the hydroelectric plant warned yesterday.
The water level is “below the critical threshold of 12.7 meters,” Igor Syrota, the head of Ukrainian operator Ukrhydroenergo, warned on television. This means that it is no longer capable of feeding “the pools of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant” for cooling operations, he added, raising international alarm.
The Kakhovka dam was destroyed on Tuesday, forcing the evacuation of thousands of people in the Kherson region. Both Kiev and Moscow blame each other for its destruction and the ensuing flood, which has so far left at least eight dead, five in the Russian-occupied area and three in the area held by Ukraine.
The dam sits on the Dnieper River and forms a reservoir that supplies cooling water to the nuclear plant some 150 kilometers upstream.
The Zaporizhia plant, occupied by Russia, is the largest in Europe.
The director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Argentine Rafael Grossi, assured this week that the water could no longer be pumped if the level of the reservoir dropped below 12.7 meters.
Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushchenko admitted that the situation needs to be “monitored”, but denied that the situation represents an “imminent risk” of nuclear disaster.
“We do not see imminent risk for now,” but “we must monitor the situation.” Currently the level of the cooling pool stands at 16.6 meters, she specified. The “critical level” is 12.7 meters to be able to feed the plant’s cooling circuits.
“There is a risk, but not now,” he reiterated, especially during summer temperatures and evaporation.
The IAEA has a team of experts at the plant, where measures have already been imposed to limit water consumption, using it only for “essential activities related to nuclear safety,” Grossi declared.
The plant’s reactors have already been shut down, but they still need cooling water to ensure that a nuclear catastrophe does not occur.
There is also concern about the continuity of the fighting in the area of the plant.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu declared that his troops yesterday repelled an offensive by kyiv forces in the region.
“Today at 1:30 (local) in the Zaporizhia area, the enemy tried to break through our defense with up to 1,500 men and 150 armored vehicles,” Shoigu said in a statement. “The enemy has been blocked and is falling back with heavy losses,” he added.
“The enemy forces specially formed to carry out this advance did not fulfill their mission,” he congratulated.
According to the minister, after a two-hour battle, the Ukrainian forces lost 30 tanks, 11 infantry fighting vehicles and up to 350 men. This information could not be verified with an independent source.
kyiv has claimed for months that it is preparing a major counteroffensive against Russian forces to retake the Ukrainian territories occupied by Moscow, including the Crimean peninsula, annexed in 2014.
According to observers, the intensification of kyiv’s “offensive operations” on the front line in recent weeks are the first signs of this operation.