Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant In San Luis Obispo County Shuts Down Due To Salp Invasion

Salp
Several jellyfish-like creatures have clogged the seawater intake at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, the San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station, in California on Thursday. These slimy sea creatures caused operators to shut down the Diablo Canyon plant in San Luis Obispo County. Wikimedia Commons

Several jellyfish-like creatures have clogged the seawater intake at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, the San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station,  in California on Thursday. These slimy sea creatures caused operators to shut down the Diablo Canyon plant in San Luis Obispo County.

Pacific Gas & Electric were forced to shut down its Unit 2 reactor in the morning due to the mini invasion of the salp, a translucent plankton-eating jellyfish-like creature that reproduces extremely quickly. Pipes were clogged with the creatures, threatening the cooling system of the Diablo Canyon power plant, reported the U-T San Diego.

They became so voluminous that we decided to do what is in the best interest of the plant and safety ... and shut it down, PG&E spokesman Tom Cuddy said.

The decision to shut down the plant leaves California without nuclear power, which accounts for approximately 14 percent of the state's electricity. Another reactor was taken offline for a routine maintenance earlier in the week.

We'll continue to monitor the intake structure and clean the salp off the screens, Pacific Gas and Electric spokesman Tom Cuddy said, reported the L.A. Times. Once they decide to move on and it's safe to do so, we'll resume full power.

The situation began on Tuesday when southerly winds blew the salps into the plant's intake pipoes. Plant operators noticed differences in water pressure, which indicated there was a clog.

I've been very pleased with how staff has reacted to this by putting safety first, said Ed Halpin, PG&E's chief nuclear officer, reported the The San Luis Obispo County Tribune.

On Wednesday, power output at Unit 2 was increased to about 24 percent, but the salps kept coming/

Last night, the conditions got to the point where we had to shut it down, Halpin said. So we'll have to wait until the salp situation clears up.

Salp are approximately 2-to-3 inches long and often stick together when floating in water. They can reproduce sexually or asexually.

By having this adaptive strategy, the numbers can ramp up quickly and you can have millions in a couple of days, said Mark Moline, a marine biology professor at Cal Poly, reported The San Luis Obispo County Tribune.

In 2005, a school of anchovies swam to close to the Generation Station, leaving plant workers with the task of clearing 11,000 pounds of dead fish. In 2004, 14,000 pounds of sardines experienced the same thing, reported U-T San Diego.

 Cuddy said that the Diablo Canyon power plant will have to remain offline until the salp leave. However, there are plenty of power reserves in California and this issue should not have a large impact on residents.

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