Tuesday March 26, 2024

Energy Central

An artificial reef built to offset marine life killed by the seawater cooling system at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station is finally doing its job, now that the power plant has been shut down for more than a decade.

The reef is essentially an anchor for giant kelp, which grows tall and thick to create the forests of the sea. A form of brown algae, the kelp reaches from the sea floor to the surface, creating a shady tower of shelter for all kinds of fish, spiny lobsters, sea otters, sea lions, sometimes whales and even birds.

Kelp forests provide a habitat for important commercial species of fish such as black rockfish and kelp bass. The slightly slimy ocean vegetable also is used to make a number of human products including shampoo, toothpaste, pharmaceuticals and food.

Scientists knew early on that the nuclear power plant’s cooling system would stir up the ocean and degrade nearby kelp beds. They also knew it would vacuum up small fish. However, it took them years of study and collaboration to determine the full effects, design a plan to compensate for that loss, and tailor the plan for the desired results.

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