Ukraine fears that its Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant will run out of water to cool its reactors by late summer due to Russian forces draining a reservoir that supplies the plant.
Ihor Syrota, director general of the state-owned Ukrhydroenergo hydropower generating company, told Reuters that Europe’s largest nuclear plant, which has been occupied by Russian forces for the past year, was not in immediate danger.
But he voiced concern about what would happen if water levels fell further at the Kakhovka reservoir on the River Dnipro, which supplies the plant and millions of people in southern Ukraine, including in Russian-occupied Crimea.
The level has fallen because Russian troops who control the reservoir, and also the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station and dam, have let some water out through sluice gates, he said.
Nuclear plants need enough water to cool their reactors and to help prevent a nuclear meltdown. Syrota said the Zaporizhzhia plant still needed water to cool its reactors even though they have been shut down.
“An issue (with lack of water for cooling) could arise in the summer, in late summer,” Syrota said in an interview, adding that the reservoir could be drained in days if all sluice gates were open.
“I hope we don’t get to that situation. I hope we de-occupy faster,” he said, referring to a planned Ukrainian counteroffensive to recapture occupied territory.
State nuclear power company Energoatom said last month the water level at the reservoir was usually 16 meters but had dropped to 13.8 meters. It said a fall to 12.8 meters would be an emergency, and 12 meters would a critical situation.
Syrota said the level had risen since then thanks to the winter thaw.
“They (the Russians) are discharging a certain volume and we have raised the level to 14.30 meters from 13.50-13.60 meters. But still the gates (of the dam) are open,” Syrota said.