This photo taken on March 29, 2023 shows the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine. (PHOTO / XINHUA)
VIENNA / UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations, Russia and Ukraine have all condemned the destruction of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant as a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe, while the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) excluded immediate safety risks to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said in a statement that the severe damage to the Kakhovka dam is "currently leading to about 5 cm per hour reduction in the height of the reservoir."
An emergency response is under way to provide urgent assistance to over 16,000 affected people, said United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths
The Kakhovka reservoir supplies water for the essential cooling system of the Zaporizhzhia plant, and the absence of the cooling water for "an extended period of time would cause fuel melt and inoperability of the emergency diesel generators," Grossi noted.
"However, our current assessment is that there is no immediate risk to the safety of the plant," he said.
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The IAEA staff stationed at the plant have been informed about the consequence of the damage and they reported that the plant is "making all efforts to pump as much water into its cooling channels and related systems as possible," according to Grossi.
The IAEA chief called on all sides to protect a nearby large cooling pond, which can provide an alternative source of cooling water for "some months" in emergencies.
United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths on Tuesday warned of the grave consequences of the destruction of the Kakhovka dam.
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"We are particularly concerned about the risks of mine and explosive ordnance contamination, as fast-moving water shifts projectiles to areas previously assessed as safe, thus putting people in further and unpredictable danger," he said.
The UN and humanitarian organizations have already stepped up operations to try and address the impact of the event. An emergency response is under way to provide urgent assistance to over 16,000 affected people, he added.
Russia and Ukraine have traded accusations over the attack on the hydroelectric power plant.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry strongly condemned the destruction of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant "by the armed forces of Ukraine," calling on the international community "to condemn the criminal acts of the Ukrainian authorities."
Denouncing the event as "a terrorist act directed against the infrastructure of a purely civilian purpose," the ministry said it was planned in advance and purposefully by Kiev for military purposes as part of the so-called "counteroffensive" of the Ukraine army.
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Kiev not only subjected the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant to massive shelling, but also deliberately brought the water level in the Kakhovka reservoir to a critical level, opening the floodgates of the Dnieper hydroelectric power station, it said.
Earlier in the day, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Russian forces had destroyed the Kakhovka dam. According to Ukraine's state-run nuclear energy operator Energoatom, the destruction of the dam may have negative consequences for the Zaporizhzhia plant.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, one of Europe's largest nuclear power plants, has been controlled by Russian forces since early March last year.