Giant Bass-O-Matic Power Plants Killing Millions Of Great Lakes Fish


Image Credit Seabamirum

Power plants on rivers and lakes have usually been built with "once-through" cooling, where water is sucked in and dumped back into the lakes as much as 30 degrees hotter.

Michael Hawthorne of the Chicago Tribune writes that the effects on the ecosystem are huge:

Staggering numbers of fish die when pulled into the screens of water intake systems so powerful that most could fill an Olympic swimming pool in less than a minute. Billions more eggs, larvae and juvenile fish that are small enough to pass through the screens are cooked to death by intense heat and high pressure inside the coal, gas and nuclear plants.

Cooling intakes kill fish prized by anglers and sold in supermarkets, along with many more smaller fish and other aquatic organisms that those species depend on for food. Critics compare the outdated technology to the Bass-o-Matic, the fish-pureeing prop from an old "Saturday Night Live" sketch.

He calls it "a threat to the Great Lakes ecosystem that has largely gone unaddressed for years." But the data for the story don't include Indiana and he didn't even ask about Canada, which has a series of nuclear reactors and coal powered plants along the shores of Lake Ontario and Lake Huron.


Pickering Nuclear Power Plant. Image credit OPG

In Canada, the Pickering Nuclear plant on its own kills a million fish and 62 million fish eggs and larvae. According to the Star last year,

The fish, which include alewife, northern pike, Chinook salmon and rainbow smelt, are killed when they're trapped on intake screens or suffer cold water shock after leaving warmer water that's discharged into the lake. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has told Ontario Power Generation, which operates the plant, to reduce fish mortality by 80 per cent. And in renewing Pickering A station's operating licence last month, the nuclear regulator asked for annual public reports on fish mortality and the effectiveness of steps OPG is taking to reduce rates.

And while the states spend millions on fish stocking programs, industry fights back. Hawthorne reports in the Tribune:

Industry lawsuits have delayed the phaseout of once-through cooling at older plants. Echoing their arguments about tougher air-pollution rules, power company lobbyists say the expense would force dozens of plants to close, costing jobs and making the nation's electrical grid less reliable.

More in Chicago Tribune
More on Power Plants in Hot Water:
When It's Too Hot To Generate Electricity
TVA Shuts Reactors: River Water is Too Hot
Thirsty Nukes Can't Take the Heat

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Tags: Chicago | Nuclear Power | Water Conservation

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