Nova Kakhovka dam breached in Ukraine, operator says it is beyond repair

6 June 2023

The Nova Kakhovka dam located in the Russian-controlled southern part of Ukraine has been breached, with the dam's operator Ukrhydroenergo stating it is 'beyond repair'. Ukraine has claimed that Russia deliberately destroyed the dam, while Russia has suggested it is Ukraine who is responsible for the damage.

Images are being circulated on social media of water surging through the central section of the 30m high dam, which is located on the Dniper river. 

Ukrhydroenergo said in a statement: "As a result of detonation of the engine room from the inside, the Kakhovskaya HPP was completely destroyed. The station cannot be restored. According to the preliminary forecast, the reservoir is expected to be drained within 4 days. As of 9:00 a.m. on June 6, the water level in the Kakhovka reservoir is rapidly decreasing, and evacuations have begun from potential flood areas. Ukrainian personnel are monitoring all indicators.

Earlier today, Ihor Syrota, Ukrhydroenergo director general, described the incident as a ‘barbaric act of destruction’.  He said that in addition to the immediate destruction of the station, there will also be environmental consequences as a result of machine oil from the turbines and transformers entering the water. He said that  a number of measures are being undertaken at all levels to stop the ecological impacts and evacuate people from areas of possible flooding as soon as possible.

The project was originally constructed in 1956. In addition to generating electricity, it supplies water to the annexed Crimean peninsula and the Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant, both under Russian control. The Zaporizhzhya plant relies on the reservoir for cooling water.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that there was no immediate nuclear safety risk at the plant as a result of the dam's failure, Reuters reported. However, the situation continues to be closely monitored by the IAEA. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy held Russia responsible for the damage caused by the breach. He expressed his view on the Telegram messaging app, stating, "The destruction of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant dam only serves to confirm to the entire world that they [Russia] must be expelled from every corner of Ukrainian land."

Ukraine's military asserted that Russian forces deliberately detonated the dam. Conversely, Russian officials claimed that Ukraine targeted the dam multiple times on Monday evening, resulting in the destruction of the hydraulic valves of the hydroelectric power station, Reuters reported.

The International Hydropower Association(IHA) released a statement expressing its concern over the damage to the dam. 

“There is still much we do not know about the circumstances of this incident, but it is clear that communities will be dislocated, large amounts of clean energy and water lost, and livelihoods severely affected," said Eddie Rich, IHA Chief Executive. "The worldwide hydropower community will want to join with IHA in offering our sympathies to those affected by this tragedy. Our thoughts are with them and those engaged in the damage limitation effort. 

“We call for infrastructure workers in Ukraine to be allowed to fulfil their duties. We encourage our network to support our members in the redevelopment and reconstruction process as and when the time comes. We continue to monitor the situation through our international network.”

Image released by Ukrhydroenergo who said that as a result of detonation of the engine room from the inside, the hydropower plant was completely destroyed. 

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