Where is the Kahovska Hydroelectric Power Station located, and what are the risks associated with its destruction?
Russian occupiers detonated the Kahovska Hydroelectric Power Station (HPP) in the Kherson region during the night of June 6. The destruction of the dam on the Dnieper River threatens the flooding of numerous settlements, making this incident the largest man-made catastrophe in decades. This information is reported by RBC-Ukraine.
The Kahovska HPP is the sixth and final stage of the Dnieper cascade hydroelectric power plants. Its operation involves regulating river flow for electricity generation, irrigation, water supply to arid regions in southern Ukraine, and navigation along the Dnieper River from Kherson to Zaporizhia.
The construction of the Kahovska Hydroelectric Complex in the 1950s raised the water level in the Dnieper River by 16 meters and led to the creation of the Kahovske Reservoir. The HPP has a capacity of 334.8 MW and is a separate unit within "Ukrhydroenergo," Ukraine's largest hydroelectric power company.
Russian occupiers seized the Kahovska HPP in the early days of the full-scale invasion in February 2022.
Location of the Kahovska HPP:
The power station is situated in the southern part of Ukraine, 5 km away from Nova Kakhovka and 30 km from the regional center of Kherson.
It should be noted that the destruction of the Kahovska HPP, due to its specific location, will have significant consequences for the local area and for Ukraine's military efforts to de-occupy the left-bank part of the Kherson region.
Description of the Kahovska HPP:
The hydroelectric power station consists of various structures. The Kahovska Hydroelectric Complex includes:
- Machine hall
- Dam stretching 447 meters with 28 spillway gates
- HPP building with an assembly area
- Earth dam between the lock and HPP
- Single-chamber navigation lock
- Flood embankments
Significance of the dam in Nova Kakhovka:
The dam crosses the Dnieper River and holds back a vast amount of water in the Kahovske Reservoir, estimated to be over 18 cubic kilometers. This volume is sufficient to potentially flood downstream settlements, including Kherson, in the event of a catastrophe.
The dam plays a crucial role in the operation of the Kahovska HPP, and its destruction would further worsen the energy situation. There is a possibility that the catastrophe could lead to the destruction of irrigation canal systems in southern Ukraine.
Additionally, the dam is strategically important not only for energy purposes but also because it connects the right and left banks of the Dnieper River. The hydro-technical structures include automobile and railway bridge crossings.
Due to the dam's significance, the Ukrainian side has considered it a potential target for the adversary since the beginning of Russia's invasion. After the liberation of Kherson in autumn 2022, it became known that the occupiers had planted explosives inside the dam, and there were reports of its damage. The Russian side accused the Ukrainian Armed Forces of alleged missile strikes on the facility.
President Volodymyr Zelensky warned Russians against sabotaging the dam: "I want to warn everyone in Moscow who makes any decisions. Any attempt by you to blow up the Kahovska HPP, flood our territory, or deprive the Zaporizhia NPP of water will mean that you are declaring war on the entire civilized world," he said in November.
It is worth noting that water from the Kahovske Reservoir is essential for the operation of the Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) located in the occupied city of Energodar.
Currently, uncontrolled lowering of the water level poses additional threats to the Zaporizhia NPP, as water is necessary for turbine operation and safety systems. The cooling pond at the plant is filled at the moment, and Ukrainian staff are monitoring all indicators.
Regarding the Russian side, the dam plays a vital role in providing water to occupied Crimea.
Current situation of the Kahovska HPP:
As a result of the explosion inside the powerhouse, the Kahovska HPP has been completely destroyed. According to "Ukrhydroenergo," it is beyond repair.
According to preliminary forecasts, the depletion of the reservoir (a decrease in water reserves over a time interval) is expected within the next 4 days. Currently, the water level in the reservoir is rapidly decreasing.
Will the explosion impact the Ukrainian counteroffensive? Military expert Serhiy Hrabsky is confident that it will not. According to him, this will create problems for the Russian occupiers as the water will flood their positions on the left bank.
"This will not affect our offensive actions because, considering the situation and the configuration of the front line, no offensive actions involving, for example, crossing the Dnieper, were planned. It is a complex operation. The enemy deliberately shot themselves in the foot," he noted in a comment.
Flood caused by the explosion at the Kahovska Hydroelectric Power Station.
Response of the Ukrainian authorities:
At the moment, there is a threat of flooding to up to 80 settlements. A meeting of the National Security and Defense Council, headed by President Volodymyr Zelensky, is currently taking place.
President Zelensky responded to the station's explosion, stating that the Russians will not be able to hinder Ukraine's plans. The Main Intelligence Directorate describes it as an obvious act of terrorism, and the Security Service of Ukraine has initiated criminal proceedings under the articles of "ecocide" and "violation of laws and customs of war."
Evacuation measures have been organized in the Kherson region.