N.Y. (AP) — For a newly hatched striped bass in the Hudson River, a clutch of
trout eggs in Lake Michigan or a baby salmon in San Francisco Bay, drifting a
little too close to a power plant can mean a quick and turbulent death.
with enormous volumes of water, battered against the sides of pipes and heated
by steam, the small fry of the aquatic world are being sacrificed in large
numbers each year to the cooling systems of power plants around the country.
say the nation's power plants are needlessly killing fish and fish eggs with
their cooling systems, but energy-industry officials say opponents of nuclear
power are exaggerating the losses.
is affecting the debate over the future of a nuclear plant in the suburbs north
issue's scope is tremendous. More than 1,000 power plants and factories around
the country use water from rivers, lakes, oceans and creeks as a coolant. At
Indian Point plant in
the casualties are just fish eggs, and for many species, it takes thousands of
eggs to result in one adult fish. The U.S. Environmental Protection
Administration, which counts only species that are valuable for commerce or
recreation, uses various formulas and says the number of eggs and larvae killed
each year at the nation's large power plants would have grown into 1.5 billion
note that even fish that die before maturity contribute to the ecosystem as food
for larger fish and birds, and as predators themselves on smaller organisms. But
once they've gone through the power plant, they become decomposing detritus on
the river bottom and have moved from the top to the bottom of the food chain,
said Reed Super, an environmental lawyer specializing in the federal Clean Water
is a really significant ongoing harm to our marine ecosystem," says Angela
Haren, program director for the California Coastkeeper Alliance in
has long existed that might reduce the fish kill by 90 percent or more. Cooling
towers allow a power plant to recycle the water rather than continuously pump it
in. New power plants are required to use cooling towers, but most existing
plants resist any push to convert, citing the huge cost and claiming that most
fish eggs and larvae are doomed anyway.
not killing grown fish," says Jerry Nappi, spokesman for Entergy Nuclear
Northeast, owner of Indian Point. "If we were killing billions of grown
fish you'd be able to walk across the
says the fish population in the
says an insistence on cooling towers could lead to Indian Point's closing and a
sudden power deficit in the
you're really talking about is a $1.5 billion hit on the company, and then it
becomes an economic decision whether they want to stay here," he says. He
believes talk of cooling towers is "a backdoor attempt by some to shut down
ruling dealt at least a small blow to Entergy's efforts. The state Department of
Environmental Protection, which is pushing for cooling towers, said the simple
fact that so many fish eggs are destroyed each year at Indian Point is proof of
an environmental impact, and Entergy can no longer maintain that it's not
adversely affecting the river.
still months of argument ahead, but the ruling could be influential.
be very interested to see how that comes out," says Katie Nekola, an
attorney for Clean Wisconsin, which failed to force cooling towers at the
to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, nuclear plants drink from other familiar
bodies of water as the Mississippi River, Chesapeake Bay, Lake Michigan, the
Gulf of Mexico and the
plants without cooling towers use a system in which water is continuously pumped
in, used for cooling, and returned.
types of barriers are used to keep adult fish out of the system; Indian Point
uses screens with holes measuring a quarter-inch by a half-inch.
fish that are blocked by the screen can become caught on the screen by the force
of the water intake. To rescue them, the screens rotate, and as they come out of
the water a spray of water knocks the impinged fish into a trough, which is
directed back to the river.
you hit a deer in your car, just because it gets up and runs away doesn't mean
it's not going to die," Haren said.
Keating, environmental manager at the nuclear subsidiary of Public Service
Enterprise Group Inc., said that probably only 1 percent of the fish caught get
killed on the screens. Dara Gray, environmental supervisor at Indian Point, says
there's no reason to believe that any fish are injured or killed by being caught
on the screen.
process known as closed-cycle cooling, used mostly in newer plants, the number
of fish and eggs sucked in or impinged is sharply reduced because cooling towers
use so much less water. Even if a power plant draws its cooling water from a
river, it uses that water over and over again and rarely needs to replenish.
plants with cooling towers don't have to worry about fish at all. PSEG Fossil
has plants in