The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power facility may be impacted by torrents of water as a result of severe damage to a strategically significant hydroelectric dam in Ukraine. The destruction of the dam, known as the Nova Kakhovka dam, has been called an “act of terror” by Ukraine’s prime Volodymyr Zelenskiy, despite the fact that no one has taken responsibility for the attack.
The dam’s collapse has forced thousands of people to migrate due to the threat that rising flood levels represent to the local ecosystems, infrastructure, and homes. Aerial footage shared on social media demonstrates how much water is currently gushing out of the reservoir as a result of the main dam construction being destroyed. Whole homes are being taken away and towns in the flood’s path are being submerged.
About 16,000 people living in the “critical zone” on the right bank of the river, which is under Ukrainian control, are being evacuated. They are traveling by bus to Kherson City, from where they will take the rail to Mykolaiv, Khmelnytskyi, Odesa, Kropyvnytskyi, and Kyiv, among other Ukrainian cities.
The Nova Kakhovka dam, constructed in 1956, is a crucial structure on the Dnipro River, holding back a massive reservoir. The reservoir, with its 30-meter-tall and hundreds of meters wide structure, stores an estimated 18 cubic kilometers of water—equivalent to the volume of the Great Salt Lake in Utah. This water serves multiple purposes, including supplying water to Crimea, powering the Kakhovka hydroelectric plant, and supporting the operations of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe’s largest.
The loss of this dam further exacerbates Ukraine’s energy crisis, as critical infrastructure has been targeted by Russian forces for months. Moreover, it would damage the canal system that irrigates a significant portion of southern Ukraine, including Crimea. Given its strategic importance and potential for immense damage, the Nova Kakhovka dam has long been a potential target, especially since its capture by Russia during the 2022 invasion.
As early as October, during Ukraine’s retaking of occupied Kherson, Volodymyr Zelenskiy warned the West about the risks of Russia destroying the dam, emphasizing that it would lead to the flooding of a vast region in southern Ukraine. Zelenskiy even alleged that Russian troops had planted explosives inside the dam. Russian officials have denied these accusations and, in turn, accused Ukrainian forces of attacking and shelling the dam themselves.
The destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam marks a significant blow to Ukraine’s infrastructure and intensifies the challenges the country faces amidst the ongoing conflict. The international community must address this devastation and work towards mitigating the humanitarian and environmental consequences of the damaged dam.