SONGS Down, Fish Up

6 Apr 2012

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station shut down has energy agencies on high alert over grid reliability this summer. There is a silver lining--a reduction in the facility’s impacts on fish and other aquatic organisms.

“San Onofre’s cooling system being temporarily shut down means millions of fish larvae, fry and young fish, also occasional marine mammals, won’t be killed by its intake and there won’t be thermal impacts to the local marine ecosystem from its significantly warmer outflow,” said David Helvarg, executive director of the Blue Frontier Campaign, a marine conservation and policy group.

The 2,200 MW facility uses an average of 2.3 billion gallons/day of marine water, according to the California Energy Commission. The equivalent amount of heated wastewater is discharged back into the ocean.

State energy agencies are focused, however, on filling in any power supply holes from San Onofre being out of commission for an unknown period of time.

“There is obviously a differential,” said Mike Jaske, California Energy Commission senior policy analyst, of the ecosystem impacts with the plant being off line. “Our current focus is on reliability if the shutdown continues into the summer.”

Of the state’s 17 coastal plants that use seawater for cooling, only Pacific Gas & Electric’s Diablo Canyon nuclear plant uses more than San Onofre. Other plants use far less.

Because of the aquatic harm from the state’s once through-cooled coastal plants, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted a plan requiring the facilities to shut down or switch to less-intensive water cooling technology at set dates.

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