Scotland’s only working nuclear power plant at Torness shut down in an emergency procedure this week when jellyfish clogged the sea water-cooling intake pipes at the plant, according to the Scotland Herald.
Without access to cool water, a nuclear power plant risks overheating, with potentially disastrous results.
The intake pipes can also be damaged, which disrupts power generation. And ocean life that gets sucked into a power plant’s intake pipes risks death.
The threat these gelatinous, pulsating, umbrella-shaped marine animals pose to nuclear power plants is neither new nor unknown.
Nuclear power plant closures are expensive. To protect marine life and avert power plant closures, scientists are exploring early warning system options.
The clash between gelatinous jellyfish and hulking nuclear power plants has a long history. These spineless, brainless, bloodless creatures shut down the Torness nuclear power plant in 2011 at a cost of approximately $1.5 million per day.
Swarms of these invertebrates have also been responsible for nuclear power plant shutdowns in Israel, Japan, the United States, the Philippines, South Korea, and Sweden.
Human-induced climate change has raised ocean water temperatures, setting conditions for larger-than-usual jellyfish populations.
Further, the relatively warm water near nuclear power plant discharge outlets may attract jellyfish swarms, according to one study.
Also, pollution has lowered oxygen levels in sea water, which jellyfish tolerate more than other marine animals, leading to their proliferation.