How is the destroyed New Kakhovka dam, vital for Crimea and the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

Flooded homes on the banks of the Dnipro river (Reuters) (STRINGER /)

The hydroelectric power station of New Kakhovka, destroyed last night from an explosion that Moscow and kyiv blame each other for, has a key importance for the area, in particular for the correct operation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and the supply of the Crimean peninsula, controlled by Russia since 2014.

The construction of the dam started in 1950 and it was commissioned six years later, during the Soviet times. Kakhovka is the last of the cascade of hydroelectric power plants on the Dnieper River.

It’s about the fifth hydroelectric plant in Ukraine with a capacity of 334.8 megawatts. The reservoir contained before the disaster on Tuesday 18 million cubic meters of water.

The dam wall is 16 meters high and 3,850 meters long.


The infrastructure, which will have to be built from scratch, according to the Russian authorities, is located in the southern Kherson region of Ukraine, 5 kilometers from the city of New Kajovka, which Russia occupied in February 2022, as soon as the intervention began. military in the neighboring country.

The Kakhovka dam and Crimea

The dam of the hydroelectric power station has a great importance not only for their energy and irrigation capacities for agriculturebut also because it connects the right and left banks of the Dnieper River, which has become front line between the Russian and Ukrainian Armies.

On the other hand, near New Kajovka, which had about 45,000 inhabitants before the start of the war, the North Crimean Canal originates, which carries water to the annexed peninsula from the Dnieper River, where the hydroelectric plant is located. destroyed.

The canal, more than 400 kilometers longoriginates from the Kajovka reservoir and was built between 1961 and 1971 to provide water to dry areas of the Kherson and Crimean region.

Ukraine blocked it in 2014, after the annexation of Crimea, and in the first days of the offensive in the neighboring country, Moscow occupied the hydroelectric plant and access to the key infrastructure for supplying the peninsula.

Satellite image of the area (Planet Labs/Reuters)
Satellite image of the area (Planet Labs / Reuters) (HANDOUT /)

The water needed to cool Zaporizhzhia

The water of the Dnieper River and the Kakhovka Reservoir is also vital to the operation of the nearby Zaporizhzhia nuclear plantthe largest in Europe and under constant danger from war attacks.

Water from the reservoir is necessary for the plant in the neighboring Zaporizhzhia region to receive electricity for turbine condensers and the security systems of the plant, occupied by Russian troops.

The plant’s cooling pond is filled with a water level of 16.6 meters, which is sufficient for the plant’s needs, according to the Ukrainian nuclear agency, Energoatom.

Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) who are at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant assured this Tuesday that “no immediate risk for nuclear safety at the plant”. Also Russia, which controls the atomic plant, stated that the risks for the Zaporizhzhia plant “are now minimal.”

According to Renat Karchaa, adviser to the Russian operator of the nuclear plants, Rosenergoatom, there was recently an “alarming period”, when the water level in the reservoir “was rising”, but “measures were taken to minimize the risks”.

previous warnings

Last October, both kyiv and Moscow warned of plans by the other side to bomb or blow up the dam.

Ukraine pointed out on that occasion that if the dam bursts, more than 80 towns would be in the flood zone. The Ukrainian president, Volodimir Zelensky, then also requested the sending of a mission of international observation to Kakhovka.

Pro-Russian authorities in the Kherson region of Ukraine began at that time to release water from the dam to lower the water level and thus minimize the potential disaster.

These actions, according to local officials, made it possible to avoid the worst scenario also today, when the hydroelectric plant received irreparable damage.

who loses more

The destruction of the dam will submerge the Russian defensive lines in this part of the Dnieper Riverbut above all will hinder a possible Ukrainian counteroffensive in the zone.

Despite the possible supply problems for Crimea, many Western observers favor the scenario of Russian sabotage, designed to punish Kiev in the short term, just as the Ukrainian army is preparing to launch an offensive to try to recover the occupied territories. in the south of the country.

That is also the thesis of the Ukrainian government, which accused Russia of blowing up the dam to “stop” its operations.

On a military level, the rising water in the southern Kherson region will make it difficult for Ukrainian forces if they want to cross the Dnieper River from the right bank in an amphibious operation, and head towards Crimea.

“Russia would be the logical culprit, because by causing a flood from Nova Kajovka, it makes it difficult for the Ukrainians to cross, gains time and can focus on other points on the front,” extended over a thousand kilometers, explained on Twitter the British historian Sergey Radchencko, professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

“I see practically nothing near or far that benefits Ukraine. It is one more destroyed infrastructure, a new destroyed electricity production tool, more suffering for Ukrainian civilians, and a limitation of Ukrainian offensive and logistical options”, adds Stéphane Audrand, an independent French consultant.

(With information from EFE and AFP)

Keep reading:

The UN said the destruction of the Kakhovka dam is “another devastating consequence” of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Zelensky accused Russia of sabotage and said that “the world must react” after the attack on Kakhovka