Nuclear catastrophe fears as Russia blows up power plant holding 18m cubic meters of water

Kyiv has claimed that Russia blew up a hydroelectric dam that supplies water to the nearby Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said “Russian terrorists” blew up the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant dam this morning, with unverified footage posted online showing water surging over the broken barrier. Officials and experts have warned that the act by Russia could endanger hundreds of thousands of lives, with the danger going beyond the nearby plant.

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, said the act was a “heinous war crime” that could have catastrophic consequences.

Writing on Twitter, he said: “Russia destroyed the Kakhovka dam inflicting probably Europe’s largest technological disaster in decades and putting thousands of civilians at risk.

“This is a heinous war crime. The only way to stop Russia, the greatest terrorist of the 21st century, is to kick it out of Ukraine.”

Mustafa Nayyem, head of State Agency for Restoration of Ukraine, shared a similar warning on the social media platform this morning.

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He said the destruction of the dam could have “catastrophic consequences” for the nuclear plant, which “uses water from the Kahovka reservoir to cool nuclear reactors”.

Energoatom, the state body responsible for overseeing Ukraine’s nuclear power plants, said that, while the destruction would ultimately have “negative consequences”.

Officials said decreasing water levels at the plant could prove dangerous, but that, for now, the station’s cooling pond is full.

In a statement, the organisation said: “Water from the Kakhovsky Reservoir is necessary for the station to receive power for turbine capacitors and safety systems of the ZNPP.”

“The station’s cooling pond is now full: as of 8:00 am, the water level is 16.6 meters, which is sufficient for the station’s needs.”

Plant officials said the situation was “under control”, and pledged to offer additional updates as the situation develops.

The Kakhovka dam is a vital infrastructure that bridges Ukraine’s Dnieper River, and holds back several cubic kilometres of water.

The dam was completed in 1956, and holds 18 cubic kilometres of water that, if released, would flood a significant tract of Kherson, the settlement regained by Ukrainian forces last year.

Regional governor Oleksandr Prokudin urged people to evacuate the area, warning that flood waters would “reach a critical level in five hours”.

Denys Shmyhal, Ukrainian Prime Minister, said 80 settlements have reportedly now flooded following the attack.

Other officials have called for emergency volunteers to help those living in the region as the floodwaters advance.

Tymofiy Mylovanov, a former minister for Kyiv’s central government, said the flooding had impacted approximately 16,000 people, but warned that the Russian-occupied bank of the Dnieper would likely suffer more.

Russian-installed official Andrey Alekseyenko posted to Telegram saying that approximately 22,000 people were caught in flood plains, but said “everything is under control”.

While Ukraine has accused Russia of carrying out the attack, the country’s government is yet to officially confirm whether it destroyed the dam.

Ukraine’s military intelligence agency claimed Russian forces carried out the attack “in a panic”.

In a statement posted to Telegram, the agency reportedly said: “This is an obvious act of terrorism and a war crime, which will be evidence in an international tribunal.”