Bristol University in England has been enlisted in an attempt to stop jellyfish interrupting the performance of coastal power plants.
Notable recent incidents halted the operations of EDF’s Torness nuclear power plant in Scotland, as well as other occurrences in Sweden, the Philippines, Japan and the US.
Researchers at the university are developing a supercomputer early warning tool that can predict the movement of masses of jellyfish, which could be headed for nuclear and coal-fired power plant cooling water intakes, hindering operations.
Torness shut for a week in 2011 as a result of blockage while the Philippines suffered a massive blackout in 1999 after 50 truckloads of jellyfish had to be removed.
EDF spokesperson Fiona McCall outlined to Power Engineering International the extent of problems caused by the creatures five years ago.
“The jellyfish swarm in 2011 meant both reactors at Torness were shut down (unit 1 was taken off for just over 3 days, unit 2 for almost 8 days). During this time the lost power output was 166 GWh. Our stations are designed and built to safely and effectively cope with marine ingress but on this occasion the volume of jellyfish was unusually large and our reactors were taken offline to ensure cooling to the reactors was safely maintained.”
“Safety is always our first priority and we already have a raft of measures in place to detect and predict blooms including detailed meteorological forecasting and local intelligence. This is the only time the reactors at Torness have been taken offline or had their output reduced to cope with a jellyfish influx.”
A lack of historical records makes it hard to say whether jellyfish blooms are increasing because of climate change or the overfishing of their predators. Researchers will use the technology to model how currents sweep jellyfish blooms across oceans and how this changes over the year.
Once a bloom is identified the new system should be able to predict where and when jellyfish are likely to hit the coast. “EDF would like as long a warning as possible, so they could send out local fishing crews to remove the bloom before they get anywhere near the coast,” researcher Erica Hendy told the Guardian.
Pietro Bernardara, from EDF Energy, also stated, “Jellyfish swarms are an occasional but challenging issue for our power stations. They can have an impact on the amount of electricity we are able to supply to consumers and can cost the business money.”
The 18-month project could also be adapted to analyse flows of seaweed, which closed the Torness plant in 2013.
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