Ihor Syrota, the director general of Ukraine’s state-owned Ukrhydroenergo hydropower generating firm, said in an interview that the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant – Europe’s largest nuclear plant located in southeastern Ukraine – could face a water shortage by the end of summer.
Syrota noted how Russian forces drained the Kakhovka reservoir, potentially making it difficult for plant operators to properly cool the facility.
While Syrota said that there is no immediate threat to the plant, which remains under Russian control, he did express concern that water levels at the reservoir on the Dnipro River could drop more. It would not only make it difficult to cool the plant but would restrict access to water for millions of people who still live in southern Ukraine.
Russian forces do have an incentive to maintain the water supply, however, given that the same reservoir presently serves Russian-controlled Crimea.
“An issue (with lack of water for cooling) could arise in the summer, in late summer,” Syrota said, per Reuters. “I hope we don’t get to that situation. I hope we de-occupy faster.”
Water levels at the reservoir had dropped to 13.8 meters last month, according to Ukrainian state nuclear power firm Energoatom, down from 16 meters.
Why Nuclear Plants Need Water
Water is necessary for cooling purposes in nuclear power plants and is typically used in two different ways. Water conveys heat from the reactor core and to the steam turbines, which generate electricity. More importantly in Zaporizhzhia’s case, the water is used to remove surplus heat from the steam circuit.
When a nuclear power plant is switched off, heat is still generated as a result of radioactive decay. Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, therefore, still needs a good supply of water to ensure that the heat can constantly be removed while the facility remains in a “cold” state.
Zelenskyy Meets UN Atomic Agency Head
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met with Rafael Grossi, the head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), on Monday. The meeting comes ahead of a planned visit to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant later in the week to assess the safety of the plant.
The talks took place in Zaporizhzhia city, some 35 miles northeast of the nuclear plant. Writing on Twitter after discussions concluded, Grossi said that he and the Ukrainian president enjoyed a “rich exchange on the protection of the Zaporizhzhya NPP and its staff.”
Grossi said that he reiterated the full support of the IAEA to all of Ukraine’s nuclear plants.
Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive’s Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.