Jellyfish Invade Swedish Nuclear Power Plant, Force Operators To Close Reactor After Filtration System Becomes Clogged

By Philip Ross on October 2, 2013 2:39 PM EDT

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A huge influx of jellyfish clogged a water pipe at the Oskarshamn Nuclear Power Plant in Sweden over the weekend. Operators were able to remove the clog on Tuesday. (Photo: Reuters)
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Oskarshamn Nuclear Power Plant in Sweden. (Photo: Creative Commons)

Jellyfish invaded the Oskarshamn nuclear power plant in Sweden on Sunday, forcing the plant to shut down one of its reactors after they clogged a pipe that conducts cool water to the reactor's turbines. Operators at the plant, one of the largest nuclear facilities in the world, scrambled to unblock the 1,400-megawatt No. 3 reactor before any serious problems occurred.

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Oskarshamn is located about 340 kilometers, or 211 miles, south of Stockholm on the Baltic Sea coast. The nuclear power plant is a boiling-water plant, the same technology as Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, and requires a constant flow of water to keep their reactors and turbine systems cool in order to prevent catastrophic overheating. It is one of three active nuclear power stations in Sweden, and meets about 10 percent of the country's electricity needs. It was completed in 1972.

Time reports that over the weekend, a swarm of jellyfish got stuck in one of the reactor's cooling water pipes, which are located about 60 feet below the surface of the water. Luckily, they didn't get very far, and were nowhere near the reactor itself. Which, we imagine, would have caused one big, gooey mess.

There was a fear that the jellyfish might get cooked by any boiling water, but a spokesman for the power plant told The New York Times that there was a greater risk the jellyfish would be killed by the pressure inside the filtration system.

But it looks as if the mess has been taken care of. According to The Guardian, engineers had cleared the clogged pipes of jellyfish by Tuesday morning (you can almost hear Mike Rowe announce an episode of "Dirty Jobs" featuring Swedish nuclear power plant engineers).

The jellyfish that clogged the pipes at Oskarshamn and caused one of its nuclear reactors to shut down were common moon jellyfish, The New York Times reports. The translucent jellyfish are usually between 10 and 16 inches in diameter, and are found throughout most of the world's oceans. They sting, but generally do not harm humans.

Over the past several decades, the ocean has seen a rise in jellyfish blooms, which refers to the large swarms of hundreds or even thousands of jellyfish that are often witnessed around fishing areas and coastal resorts. According to scientists, the increase in jellyfish indicates a change in ocean environments. The jellyfish, a predatory plankton, like warm waters, so a rise in global sea temperatures could explain the explosion in jellyfish blooms.

"The apparent increase in size and frequency of such blooms is convincingly linked to human activity, from global warming to overfishing, and habitat destruction to the introduction of fertilizers, toxic chemicals and trash," jellyfish expert Lisa-ann Gershwin wrote in her 2013 book titled "Stung! On Jellyfish Blooms and the Future of the Ocean."

The clogged pipe at Oskarshamn isn't the first time this has happened. Last year at the Diablo Canyon nuclear facility in California, sea salp, a gelatinous animal similar to the jellyfish, clogged water intake pipes. And in 2005, the same happened at Oskarshamn to its No. 1 reactor.

Scientists warn that clogs like this are becoming more common. Many reactors are placed near bodies of water, in order to be close to a source to cool down the reactors. The more jellyfish in the water, the more clogs.  

Read more from iScience Times:

Green Bunnies Glow: Researchers Create Glow-In-The-Dark Rabbits Using Jellyfish DNA [VIDEO]

Rare Jellyfish Sting Swimmers: Giant Black Sea Nettles Invade Southern California Over July Fourth Weekend [VIDEO]

Jellyfish Blooms: Is Rising Jellyfish Population A Sign That Our Oceans Are In Trouble?

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