This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows an overview of the Kakhovka dam that was breached in southern Ukraine. The Kakhovka dam sits on the Dnipro river, which provides cooling water for the plant. Image Credit: AP

VIENNA:The UN and Russia said there was no major risk to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant Tuesday after damage to a major dam in Ukraine caused floods, but Kyiv warned of a potential disaster.

Moscow and Kyiv have blamed each other for the damage at the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam and offered conflicting versions on the safety situation at the Moscow-occupied plant, some 150 kilometres away.

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The governor of Kherson region said that Kyiv had struck the Nova Kakhovka dam to distract attention from what he said were the failures of the counteroffensive in the country’s east.

In a video posted on Telegram, Vladimir Saldo said that a major evacuation would not be necessary as a result of the dam breach.

TASS cited emergency service as saying that Ukraine had struck the region with Storm Shadow missiles which had been supplied to Kyiv by Britain.

The Kakhovka dam sits on the Dnipro river, which provides cooling water for the plant.

The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it was “aware” of the reports of damage at the Kakhovka plant.

The dam that was breached. Image Credit: Reuters

“IAEA experts at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power plant are closely monitoring the situation; no immediate nuclear safety risk at plant,” it said in a tweet.

The director of the plant, Yuri Chernichuk, echoed the UN agency.

Chernobyl nuclear disaster

“At the moment, there is no security threat to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant,” Chernichuk said in a Telegram statement.

“The water level in the cooling pond has not changed,” he said, adding that the “situation was controlled by personnel.”

Chernichuk said “the water cooling the spent nuclear fuel pools is a closed circuit that does not have direct contact with the outside environment and the water of the Kakhovka reservoir.”

He said the water can be refilled with “water from the Kakhovka reservoir or with several alternative sources.”

Ukraine - which in 1986 suffered the devastating Chernobyl nuclear disaster - sounded the alarm.

“The world once again finds itself on the brink of a nuclear disaster, because the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant lost its source of cooling. And this danger is now growing rapidly,” Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak said.

The Ukrainian nuclear operator, Energoatom, said the water level of the Kakhovka reservoir was “rapidly decreasing, which is an additional threat to the temporarily occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.”

It said it was “monitoring the situation” and that currently the cooling plant’s pond water level is “sufficient for the power plant’s needs.”