The destruction of the Kakhovka dam on the Dnieper River could endanger the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant, China’s ambassador to the UN, Zhang Jun, told the Security Council on Tuesday. Beijing has urged Ukraine and Russia to ensure this does not happen.
“We express our great concern over the destruction of the dam at the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station,” Zhang told a special session of the council.
Noting that the Kakhovka reservoir is a major source of cooling water for Europe’s largest atomic power plant, Zhang added that the water in the reservoir continues to recede “and it may not be possible to continue pumping water to the nuclear power plant in the future.”
“China reiterates that in the event of a nuclear disaster no one can stay immune. We call for maximum restraint, avoiding words and deeds that could escalate confrontation and lead to miscalculation, and maintaining the safety and security of the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant,” said Zhang.
“No party, especially countries with important influence, should fuel the fire and escalate tensions, much less try to profit from expanded crises to advance their own strategic agenda,” the Chinese envoy added.
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Ukraine has accused Russia of blowing up the dam and flooding the downriver towns and cities, including Ukrainian-held Kherson. Moscow has pointed the finger at Kiev, noting that Ukraine has attacked the dam in the past – using US-supplied HIMARS rockets – and released water from an upstream reservoir on the Dnieper River shortly before the Kakhovka dam collapsed.
The Zaporozhye facility in Energodar has six reactor cores and is the largest atomic power station in Europe. Russian troops have controlled it since March last year. The region in which it is located voted to join Russia in late 2022, though Ukraine claims it is illegally occupied.
Ukrainian artillery targeted the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant on multiple occasions last year, according to evidence that Russia provided to the UN Security Council. In September, the Ukrainian military admitted that it had struck Energodar. Ukrainian commandos also attempted to seize the facility ahead of a visit by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) observer mission, but their attack failed.
The head of the IAEA, Rafael Grossi, insisted on Tuesday that “there is no immediate risk to the safety of the plant.” Russia’s acting governor of Zaporozhye Region, Evgeny Balitsky, also said that the current water level near the nuclear power plant is “non-routine” but still “acceptable.”