Mussels Beat German Wilhelmshaven Coal Power Plant Into Submission

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One of the largest coal power plants in Germany — EON SE’s Wilhelmshaven hard coal plant on the coast of the North Sea — was recently forced to shut down for a week (or so) owing to the water inflow pipes becoming clogged with huge masses of mussels.

Given that the rather large 757 MW power plant powers the equivalent of 1.5 million German homes, the closure is no small thing. (It’s also a reminder that fossil fuel power plants, too, need backup power plants in place.) The problem arose “only” about a week before a scheduled maintenance period (August 30 until September 22) though, so the timing wasn’t terrible. Not good, certainly, but not as bad a it could be.

Image Credit: Mussels via Flickr CC


“We usually scrape tons of mussels out of the area where the cooling water flows during the plant’s usual revisions, but this time there were so many that we couldn’t wait for the next inspection,” Markus Nitschke, a spokesman for EON, said by phone from Dusseldorf today. “The warmer temperatures have caused this infestation.”

Bloomberg provided some coverage back when the news first broke:

EON shut its second biggest hard coal plant yesterday after the mollusks clogged the inflow of cooling water into the facility, the company said today. Warmer-than-usual weather in northern Germany (temperatures in the city of Cuxhaven, near Wilhelmshaven, have been about 2 degrees Celsius above norm since June) and sand deposits in the Wilhelmshaven bay area spurred the mussel boom. EON had to shut its 1,400 MW Oskarshamn-3 nuclear reactor in Sweden last year for two days after a jellyfish swarm clogged the cooling water system.

“I don’t expect that the plant will go online again before the official revision starts,” Nitschke noted.

Given the fact that sea temperatures in the area are expected to rise rather significantly in the coming decades as a result of global warming, you can pretty much count on similar developments in the coming years.

Image Credit: Mussels via Flickr CC

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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