Scary stories about the danger of the Kyiv Dam appear in the press quite regularly. Fatalists believe that the 40-km-long leviathan will break down one day and the Kyiv sea will go free, destroying everything on its way - Podol, Obolon and Left bank.
There are not only media representatives among the pessimists, but prominent ecologists, public organizations and even ordinary drivers. In their opinion, there are plenty of reasons for the dam to break down - flood, earthquake, ice flow, overload, constructions on the nearby territories, a terrorist act...The usual hysteria starts right at the beginning of spring floods. But now there is one more reason for fatalists to panic - flood in Kuban, Russia. ForUm decided to investigate into the issue and to find out the condition of the Kyiv Dam and whether there are reasons to expects doomsday any time soon.

Official point of view

First thing ForUm did was to learn the opinion of the authorities of the public company "Ukrhydroenergo". The director general Ihor Syrota assures the Kuban tragedy does not threaten Ukraine.

According to him, similar floods usually happen in mountain area, where the water masses can reach basins really fast and provoke the rise of water table. Similar situation is not possible here, as the central part of Ukraine is mainly a plain. Besides, dams and water reservoirs have been built to keep the water masses and control its flow from the north to the south.  Thanks to these constructions, the country is safe.

As Ihor Syrota told, the water reservoirs of the Dnipro river cascade are massive and can take large quantities of water. The situation is under continuous control, and there have been no floods registered in the central and eastern parts of Ukraine for the last 50 years.

According to the Ukrhydroenergo director, the hydraulic structures and hydro dams were designed for 100 years of operation. After this period is over, the expert commission will conduct deep investigation into technical condition of structures and decide on the extension of their operation term. In the meantime, the specialized institutions conduct various inspections of all the dams on the Dnipro river every five years. The recent results of these examinations testified to a very good condition of hydraulic structures and hydro dams, so they do not cause any concern. In addition, all the structures are regularly monitored with the modern automated control systems, which automatically collect all the information in a single center and transfer it to the relevant departments. Such control systems have been already installed at three stations of the Ukrhydroenergo, including the Kyiv Hydro Power Plant. In the near future they will function at all plants on the Dnipro river cascade. All these systems have foreign equipment. The funds for projects were partially allocated by the World Bank within the Ukrhydroenergo Hydro Power Plants rehabilitation project designed to improve the reliability of their operation and service life for another 30-40 years.

On the top of everything else, a new alert system was installed in the Ukrhydroenergo hydroelectric set #1 launch area in March 2011. The system is able to detect any emergency situation and alert people in advance. It is the first time similar alert system operates in Ukraine. In particular, it anticipates risks at early stage, controls the water level in the upper and lower pools and sends alert signals to the control desk. In case of emergency, the alarm and evacuation management system goes off automatically.

Ihor Syrota stresses that his company has sufficient financing to maintain the construction. The sponsors include the World Bank and EBRD, which also follow the operative condition of the dam, as well as ecologists. It is obvious, nobody needs troubles, and Ukrhydroenergo thoroughly monitors its hydraulic structure.

But what if...

Be it for good or for bad, anything can happen in life. And if pessimistic predictions come true, the government must be prepared for a disaster. ForUm learned from the Emergencies Ministry, whether there is a scenario in case of a dam break in Kyiv and whether our country has the resources to save as many human lives as possible.

According to the emergencies deputy minister Vasyl Kvashuk, the inspections of the hydro structures condition are conducted regularly at all the hydro power plants. According to the results of the last inspection conducted in 2009 by the interdepartmental commission, the hydraulic structures and equipment of the Kyiv Hydro Power Plant are in operational conditions, comply with the requirements of the project and can fulfill their purpose of function.

Nevertheless, the Emergencies Ministry is ready for sudden surprises from Mother Nature. The emergency response units of over 15 thousand military personnel, 750 stream crossing means, more than 200 units of engineering equipment, about 800 motor pumps and pumping stations, 200 mobile power plants and 70 stations of heating and life support maintain constant alert at the water basins of Ukraine.

Vasyl Kvashuk also informed that the emergency response units had adjusted the approach routes and determined the home stations for Emergency Ministry rescue units in every region of interest. The Ministry also has a cooperation and information exchange plan with other departments (Defense Ministry, Interior Ministry, State special transport service).     
Approximately every five years the Emergencies Ministry holds headquarter exercises with the departments of the Common state system on civil protection. The Kyiv city state administration has also worked out a population evacuation plan in case of a catastrophe at the Kyiv Dam.

Opinion of the creator

The builders of the Kyiv Dam agree with the officials and share the confidence in the structure. The participant of the construction works Kostyantyn Vashynski told ForUm his opinion:

- All those "specialists" who has doomed the Dam are wrong. I've been working at Dnipro for 50 years. All hydraulic structures, including Kyiv water power plant and Kakhovska plant, are perfect and can function for many-many years. The Kyiv Dam is 40 km long, and the whole structure is 70 km long. It is one of the biggest and most powerful hydraulic structures in the world. Those opinions and statements on that the Dam is 93% worn out are 100% bullshit. Special commissions inspect the Dam every five years. Being a member of these commissions, I can assure you the whole structure functions perfectly.

With our own eyes

In order to prove everything said above ForUm decided to visit the Kyiv water power plant (Vyshgorod) to see for itself.

Oleh Urmanov, director of an Ukrhydroenergo department, welcomed us and showed the premises around.

The official informed us that with every inspection or works the Kyiv water power plant consult specialists and scientist: planning construction of new structures, Ukrhydroenergo consult specialists on metal; having questions on water composition or corrosion risks, officials consult hydrobiologists; geophysics give constant update on earthquake risks (Dnestr unit is in constant adjustment movement due to the close proximity to Romania). 

On our request, Oleh Urmanov told us about main problems of the Kyiv plant. "The major problem is continuous reconstruction. The station has been working for 48 years, and major part of equipment has worn out. Technical devices stop functioning and we have to do more and more repair works."
According to the specialist, the reconstruction process started back in 1994, but was going slow due to lack of financing. "Now we have the European and World banks to carry out repair works. The World Bank has already given 120 million dollars and we expect another 400 million (for all stations of Dnipro and Dnestr cascades). Our task is to replace equipment to prolong the station's operating term for another 25-30 years. Most of the equipment was issued in 1964 and now lags behind modern microprocessor enginery"' Urmanov says.

Another task is to provide fast installation of emergency stations. "Now we can launch an emergency station, equal to the Kyiv water power plant, in three minutes. We have the latest alert systems, which work automatically, and the human factor is minimal. The personnel only control the proper observation of the switch-on/switch-off automatic process," the director explains.

Of course, there are various problems happening from time to time. For example, a plant unit refuses to work due to water penetration or pipe fracture. In this case, the local commission investigates into the malfunction to find out the cause. Apart from the local commission, there is the state inspection on power plant and network operation, which may come in case of emergency to assist with the investigation. According to Urmanov, there have been no catastrophes at the Kyiv water power plant, while malfunctions of 1-3 emergency levels happen. 

It turns out that to be a full-fledged working member of the European energy system, our stations must have 15-20% of immediate reserve out of the total balance of capacity. According to the official, Ukraine plans to reach these figures by 2030. It is expected to increase Kyiv plant's capacity up to 320 MW after its reconstruction. Urmanov explains that it is very expensive power, highly valued all over the world. In addition, it is planned to build new stations - Dnestr and Kanev water power plants, as well as to expand the Kahovska station.

ForUm also asked the station director to comment on the latest pessimistic forecasts of the expert on catastrophes Vasyl Kredo, who states the Kyiv Dam is about to collapse and flood the whole Kyiv. "Kredo is not a specialist and he has never visited the Dam itself. He writes about the Dam all the time but he has never set foot on its premises. If he had asked to visit the dam, as you did, we would have been happy to show him around. Then, let him express his opinion. Instead, he goes somewhere, reads something and then writes groundless statements. The same thing concerns the ecologist Volodymyr Boreiko. I've never seen him here. The Dam is not going to collapse and flood everything. You know, that is what we are for here - to prevent it from happening. We have a special service on prevention of man-made accidents and a special automatic alert system. In other words, the operation process is set and working."

The Dam itself is an impressive structure. No surprise, it causes such emotions among fatalists.

Oleh Urmanov brought us to the monitor center to show the special computer program, responsible for monitoring the condition of the station. Numerous sensory devices report on the wall inclination level, changes in the concrete joints, level of humidity, etc.

Then we went to the closed switchgear to see controllers. When the old controllers were replaced with the new ones, the first sets were given female names.

View from the window.

Modern equipment enables the station to produce more power.

Equipment, set in soviet times, still functions properly.

Gates of emergency spillway also do a good job.

One turbine is under repair.

A turbine rotor is undergoing repair works in the turbine room.

Energy production process is going smoothly in the turbine room.

In the end, we visited the control desk, where an operator follows the work of all units of the Kyiv water power plant.

As ForUm has learned for itself, the Kyiv plant is in good condition. Old equipment is being replaced with new one while the station keeps working. With the best will in the world we could not find any cracks or holes, and the rescue plan in case of a catastrophe does exist. The author of this article did not set it as a goal to prove or deny any statements. We were interested in pure facts, but we happened to find proofs of assurance: Kyiv, sleep in peace, as no big water threatens you!

Anastasia Pika, photos by Maxim Trebukhov


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