The IAEA clarified that the collapse of the Kakhovka dam does not pose an immediate risk to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko//File Photo) (ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO/)

A major dam in southern Ukraine collapsed on Tuesday, inundating villages, endangering crops and threatening drinking water supplies, as both sides in the war scrambled to evacuate residents and blamed each other for the destruction.

The nuclear power plant Zaporizhzhyathe largest in Europe, depends largely on water from the reservoir of the dam that is now being emptied.

The UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that “There is no immediate risk to the safety of the plant”, whose six reactors have been closed for months but still need water to cool.

He said the rate of drop in the dam’s reservoir level has increased from 5 centimeters to 9 centimeters per hour and could be depleted in a couple of days. The plant has alternative water sources that can last for months, according to the IAEA.

The Ukrainian Nuclear Power Corporation, energoatomissued a statement saying that the situation at the plant was “under control”.

But there are long-term concerns, both about safety and about the possibility of the plant returning to operation in the next few years.

In his statement, Rafael Mariano GrossiIAEA director general, said the cooling pond should last “a few months” but that it was imperative that it not be damaged during the fighting. The water is used to cool not only the reactor cores, but also the spent fuel and diesel generators used for the safety systems.

“The absence of cooling water in essential cooling water systems for an extended period would cause melting of the fuel and inoperability of emergency diesel generators,” he warned.

Ukraine accused Russian forces of blowing up the Kakhovka dam and hydroelectric power station (PLANET LABS PBC/Handout via REUTERS)
Ukraine accused Russian forces of blowing up the Kakhovka dam and hydroelectric power station (PLANET LABS PBC / Handout via REUTERS) (HANDOUT /)

Ukraine accused Russian forces of blowing up the dam and hydroelectric power station Kakhovka, which is located on the Dnieper River in an area that Moscow has controlled for more than a year. Russian officials blamed the Ukrainian shelling on the disputed area, where the river separates the two sides.

Russian and Ukrainian officials used terms like “ecological disaster” and “terrorist act” to describe the torrent of water that gushed through the broken dam and began to empty an upstream reservoir that is one of the largest in the world.

Ukrainian President, Volodimir Zelenskycalled it “the biggest man-made environmental disaster in Europe in decades”. The UN Secretary General, Anthony GuterresHe said it was “another devastating consequence of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

As houses, streets and businesses flooded, authorities raised concerns about drinking water supplies and emergency teams evacuated thousands of people from Ukrainian- and Russian-controlled areas.

Both the Russian and Ukrainian authorities brought in trains and buses to move the residents to safety. Some 25,000 people in Russian-controlled areas and 17,000 in Ukrainian-controlled territory must be evacuated, Ukraine’s deputy chief prosecutor Viktoriia Lytvynova said on Ukrainian television. Neither side reported deaths or injuries.

A satellite photo Tuesday morning of Planet Labs PBC agency scrutinized PA showed that more than 600 meters of the 1950s dam wall was missing.

The dam breach, long feared by both sides, added a startling new dimension to Russia’s war, now in its 16th month.

Mykhailo PodolyakZelensky’s senior adviser, warned that “Thousands of animals and ecosystems will be destroyed.”

The incident also drew international condemnation, including from the German Chancellor. Olaf Schölz and the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, who said that the “outrageous act… once again demonstrates the brutality of Russia’s war in Ukraine.”

Ukraine controls five of the six dams along the Dnieper, which runs from its northern border with Belarus to the Black Sea and is crucial for supplying drinking water and energy to the country and Russian-occupied Crimea.

Ukraine and Russia have previously accused each other of attacking the dam.

(With information from AP)

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