Sealing Their Fate
Dozens of sea lions, seals, and sea turtles die each year after being sucked into power plants along Southern California’s coast, but federal and regional regulators have done little to stop the deaths. Several power plants use ocean water to cool the super-hot steam that powers energy-generating turbines; intake pipes extend far into the ocean and in the process of taking in water, they also suck in fish, crustaceans, marine mammals, and other sea creatures. The San Onofre nuclear plant boasts the highest death toll, having killed 187 harbor seals and sea lions since 1983. Officials at the National Marine Fisheries Service argue that the effects of the deaths on growing seal and sea lion populations are negligible, but they are beginning to take more steps to follow federal rules intended to protect marine mammals. In May 1999, the agency granted a permit to a New Hampshire nuclear plant that allows it to kill 24 seals a year, and it may start regulating California plants with similar permits next year.