Jellyfish Shut Down Swedish Nuclear Reactor

A giant swarm of jellyfish takes on a nuclear reactor in Sweden. Continue reading →

Jellyfish recently clogged the cooling water intake pipes at a nuclear power plant in Sweden, forcing the world's largest boiling water reactor to shut down. And this isn't the first time jellyfish have tangled with nuclear reactors.

PHOTOS: Life on the Ocean Floor Garbage Patch

Nuclear engineers at the Oskarshamn nuclear power plant on the Baltic Sea in southeastern Sweden discovered a giant swarm of moon jellyfish had blocked the cooling water intake pipes, the New York Times reported. The jellyfish caused the plant to shut down but were prevented from entering the reactor itself by filters.

Moon jellyfish, called Aurelia aurita, are a common type found worldwide and have an umbrella-shaped body. While moon jellyfish aren't considered dangerous to humans, it's debatable whether they're actually harmless. A spokesman for the power plant told the Times last night they hoped they had solved the problem by clearing the jellyfish but weren't sure because they could come back.

Jellyfish and power plants have a tense history. In December 1999, jellyfish clogged the cooling pipes for a coal-fired plant in the Philippines, sending millions of people into temporary darkness during the holidays.

The Oskarshamn plant reported a similar incident in 2005. Then in 2006, a mass of jellyfish stopped up the seawater cooling system at a nuclear reactor in Hamaoka, Japan. Fortunately the water intake system automatically shut itself down. Plants in Israel and in Florida were also threatened.

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Jellyfish aren't just messing with power generation, either. They've thwarted mining operations, asphyxiated salmon and pushed sturgeon closer to extinction, Smithsonian Magazine's Abigail Tucker reported. It's tempting to attribute the rise of the jellyfish to global warming, and indeed many have.

But there are still questions about whether this is a new population explosion or part of a boom-and-bust cycle for the creatures. Either way, looks like we're in a boom time now.

Photo: A purple moon jellyfish. Credit: Philippa Warr.

One Fish, Two fish, Red Fish, Shoe fish

Trash on the bottom of the ocean used to be out of sight and out of mind, but a project by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) brought images of deep sea dumps to the surface. The MBARI team observed more than 1,500 pieces of trash on the seafloor from Vancouver Island to the Gulf of California, and as far west as the Hawaiian Islands.

Oceanic life sometimes made the best of this bad situation by colonizing the garbage. For example, this young rockfish is a shoe-in for survival and adaptation at 472 meters (1,548 feet) deep in San Gabriel Canyon, off Southern California.

Seafloor Social Network

Other young rockfish swim around discarded fishing equipment on the floor of Monterey Canyon off the coast of California. Luckily for them, the net isn't working. While some marine life may be able to adapt to human garbage, oceanic trash can trap animals, release toxins, smother plants and have other negative effects.

Boxing Day for Crabs

An octopus coils and crabs crawl over a metal box 2,432 meters (7979 feet) deep in Monterey Canyon.

Container Overboard

This shipping container was discovered by MBARI four months after it fell off the merchant vessel Med Taipei during a storm in February of 2004. The container was just one of the estimated 10,000 shipping containers lost overboard every year.

Drums in the Deep

A wanna-be Sebastian the Crab, from Disney's the Little Mermaid, may be planning to turn this drum into a percussion instrument for a calypso band under the sea. The 55-gallon drum lies 2,892 meters (9,488 feet) deep in outer Monterey Canyon.

Cardboard Crabs

Even fragile garbage like this old cardboard can become part of the ocean floor ecosystem if it isn't handled with care. However, the crabs may be grouchy that cardboard covers their habitat 3,950 meters deep, offshore of Point Conception, Santa Barbara County, California.

Wheel Life

A sea anemone (top) and sea cucumber (right) gained traction on the surface of this tire submerged 868 meters (2,850 feet) beneath the waves in Monterey Canyon.

Always Coca-Cola

The ubiquitous Coca Cola logo can be found even 1,200 meters deep in Monterey Canyon.

Classic Fish Pun

This old shoe is in pretty bad shape, but it seems to still have its sole...or is that a flounder (upper left)?

It's in the Water

The slogan of Olympia beer, “It's the water,” can barely be read on this old can. In this case, lots and lots of water.

Lost Deposit

Someone didn't turn in this soda bottle for a deposit. Instead, deep in the sea, brittle stars creep around the bottle on Davidson Seamount, 60 miles offshore of California and 1,727 meters (5,666 feet) below the ocean surface. "The most frustrating thing for me is that most of the material we saw—glass, metal, paper, plastic—could be recycled," said Kyra Schlining, lead author of the MBARI study published in Deep-Sea Research, in a press release.

The Long Black Veil

A gorgonian coral wears a veil of black plastic 2,115 meters (almost 7,000 feet) deep in Astoria Canyon, off the coast of Oregon. The veil could become a death shroud if the plastic were to completely cover the coral and block coral polyps from feeding.

Dr. Pollution

Dr. Pepper's slogan could be modified to, “Would you like to be a polluter too?” for this can submerged 1,529 meters deep on Axial Seamount, off the Pacific Northwest's coast. The nearby brittle stars probably can't tell the difference between Dr. Pepper detritus and Mr. Pibb pollution.