Can a small, gelatinous, almost transparent sea creature block two 950 megawatt nuclear reactors, causing millions of dollars in economic loss? If that seems impossible, wait before saying it, because that is exactly what is happening in South Korea , at the Hanul plant in the central east of the country.
For the second time in less than three weeks, reactors 1 and 2 at the plant have been shut down. No breakdowns, no accidents: what stopped them were the salps, marine organisms similar to jellyfish about which we still know very little but which, apparently, are capable of remarkable ” tests of strength “.
They are less than 10 centimeters and, at first glance, it is hard to believe that they are causing so many problems for South Korean nuclear reactors. However, salps (Salpida), planktonic organisms classified among tunicates, have the extraordinary ability to “clone” and unite in hundreds of genetically identical specimens that form chains several meters long, similar to fascinating objects. of crystal floating in the depths of the sea.
image credit: Peter Southwood/Wikimedia – Not the actual photo
Indeed, it must be recognized that looking at the images that represent them, they are truly intriguing creatures, shrouded in mystery and certainly capable of attracting attention. The nuclear power station in question was indeed literally invaded by these creatures , which slipped into the cooling water circuits of the reactors, obstructing them. It goes without saying that the authorities in charge of controlling the plant were forced to shut down systems which, without proper temperature control, could have experienced serious problems.
image credit: IAEA Imagebank/Wikimedia
Although salps are a fairly well-known presence – they are one of the food sources for sea turtles, which unfortunately can be mistaken for plastic residue due to their appearance – they had never happened before. arrive in such large quantities at the end of March. In fact, it is usually in June that the long chains of these creatures appear. In the spring of 2021, however, there was a real invasion: according to experts, the cause is warmer currents than in previous years.
image credit: Lars Plougmann/Wikimedia – Not the actual photo
Meanwhile, South Korea’s energy system is estimated to have paid around $ 21.8 million for this phenomenon , as the Asian country has had to resort to sources other than nuclear power due to the blocked reactors.
In short: a big problem for the local economy, on which we are trying to intervene with all possible means, even if it is to be feared that this will become more and more frequent. Sometimes it seems that nature decides to put a stop to human activities, with unusual and unthinkable means.