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Jellyfish and algae becoming a bigger hazard for nuclear reactors

Spineless attacks on nuclear power plants could increase, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Natalie Kopytko  19 Feb 15 Nuclear power plants increasingly face a new enemy: the humble jellyfish.

These aquatic animals—and algae and other plants—get caught in and block the cooling water intake pipes of nuclear power plants, preventing nuclear reactors from getting the huge amount of water they need every day to cool their reactor cores and associated equipment.

Usually, screens prevent aquatic life and similar debris from being drawn into the power plants’ cooling system. But when sufficiently large volumes of jellyfish or other aquatic life are pulled in, they block the screens, reducing the volume of water coming in and forcing the reactor to shut down.

Jellyfish and algae have assaulted nuclear power plants in the United States, Canada, Scotland, Sweden, Japan, and France. In Scotland alone, two reactors at the country’s Torness power station had to shut down in a single week when the seawater they used as a coolant was inundated with jellyfish. (Because of their tremendous need for cool water, nuclear power plants are often located next to oceans and other naturally occurring large bodies of water.)

The problem is not entirely a new one in the energy industry; the first known jellyfish “attack” on a (coal-fired) power plant happened in 1937, in Australia. But while biological fouling has long been an issue, the number of such events has been on the increase in the past five years or so, and could increase further because of environmental change. The sheer number and size of the animals seems to be increasing as well; in some incidents, there have been more jellyfish than water, jellyfish biologist and senior marine scientist Monty Graham of southern Alabama’s Dauphin Island Sea Lab has reported. Sometimes, the jellyfish concentrations can be quite dramatic, with as many as 50 to 100 of the animals per cubic meter of water. News photos show jellyfish taken from power plant intakes filling containers the size of the bed of a pickup truck. Occasionally, schools of jellyfish are so large and thick that they can be seen from the air, as shown in this video footage from LiveScience.

Scientists are unsure as to the reasons for these periods of sudden, rapid increase in population, or “blooms.” ………

A freak event that keeps recurring. Shutdowns caused by jellyfish have occurred all over the globe. In 2011, the Shimane nuclear power plant in Japan had to shut down due to an influx of jellyfish. The same problem occurred twice at Sweden’s Okarshamns nuclear power plant—home to the world’s largest boiling water reactor—which was forced to shut down because of a bloom of moon jellyfish in 2005, and stop generating again for three days in 2013. Jellyfish have been a problem for decades at California’s Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. As far back as 1984, jellyfish caused Florida’s St. Lucie plant to shut down; it happened again in 2011—this time with a two-day shut down.

Such supposedly freak events may become even more common in the future, because of degraded environmental conditions that favor jellyfish. …….

Jellyfish economics. Biological fouling in nuclear power plants has long required monitoring, evaluation, and action. But International Atomic Energy Agency reports warn that monitoring and processes that address biological fouling will need to change, because nuisance species seem to benefit from the warmer waters caused by climate change.

From the Pacific to the Atlantic and in the freshwater seas of the Great Lakes, nuclear power plants have been attacked—and shut down—by jellyfish or algae, costing millions of dollars. The increasing number of shutdowns caused by jellyfish blooms and algae may, in their own small way, help to deflate a key argument of those who promote nuclear energy: that it is cheaper to operate than other energy sources. In this way, nuclear power may run afoul of spineless enemies.


February 28, 2015 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, safety

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