Early this month, the Oskarshamn nuclear plant in southeastern Sweden was shut down to a large influx of jellyfish into its cooling pipes. An NBC News article explains that the reactor was forced to shutdown for fear of overheating.
Because of the shear amount of water needed to cool a nuclear reactor, these plants are almost always built adjacent to large bodies of water. While the water supply is abundant for keeping the reactors cool, the marine life surrounding the plants is not always as accommodating. In this particular case, the jellyfish clogged pipes caused one of the reactors to be closed for almost three days while the turbine cooling pipelines were cleared out. Concern was perhaps heightened due to the Fukushima Daichi reactor in Japan which was flooded and underwent a large meltdown. While the circumstances were much different, both the Oskarshamn and Fukushima reactors use boiling-water technology.
While the headline may seem bizarre, one of the most interesting parts of the article is when it lists other cases of jellyfish interfering with the proper function of nuclear power plants throughout the world. The Diablo Canyon reactor in California was a victim of jellyfish last year, and this is the second time the Oskarshamn plant was affected; the first being in 2005.
Even though this is not a rare phenomenon, scientists who were interviewed for the story seem to think instances are on the rise. Lene Moller, a researcher at the Swedish Institute for the Marine Environment says based on circumstantial evidence, the number of jellyfish appear to be on the rise, but these suspicions cannot be confirmed due to a lack of historic data on the jellyfish population of the region in question. His instinct though, is that this problem will probably more prevalent in areas that have been overfished, allowing jellyfish to flourish.
It’s amazing to think that overfishing could ultimately be causing problems with nuclear reactors but it goes to show how interconnected the planet’s phenomena truly are.