After the severe damage to the Kakhovka Dam on June 6, immediate attention shifted towards the nearby Zaporizhzhia facility, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.
The plant relies on water from the vast reservoir behind the dam to cool its reactors and spent fuel. While the flooded downstream area drew significant concern, the primary focus upstream was the decrease in water levels and its potential impact on the safety of the Zaporizhzhia plant.
Satellite imagery has vividly captured the striking transformations in the reservoir, situated in territory occupied by Russia since shortly after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
A timelapse video illustrates the receding water levels (depicted in green) from June 8 to June 20, 2023 revealing previously submerged sand banks now exposed.
Leveraging satellite data, we conducted measurements to quantify the extent of the dam collapse’s influence on the Kakhovka reservoir.
Our analysis concentrated on the section of the reservoir illustrated below:
Water surface area within this region has experienced a substantial decline following the dam collapse:
Despite the drop in water levels, the United Nations nuclear watchdog announced on June 21 that plans were in place to resume pumping water from the remaining portions of the reservoir.
Previously, uncertainty loomed regarding whether the reservoir’s level had fallen below the water intakes necessary for replenishing the cooling pond.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) noted that a separate discharge channel at a nearby thermal power plant had been utilized to compensate for evaporated water in the cooling pond.
“The discharge channel and the large cooling pond can jointly provide cooling water for several months, as long as they remain intact,” the IAEA said. “However, it is challenging to determine precisely how long the existing water reserves will suffice, given various external factors such as evaporation and the possibility of future leaks.”
Following a visit to the site, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi affirmed that inspectors from the organization would remain there. However, the situation remains fraught with dangers, especially as a Ukrainian counteroffensive unfolds in the region this summer.
We will diligently monitor this evolving situation and provide further updates as soon as new information becomes available.