Rhys Darby

Comedian Rhys Darby on life in New Zealand

Rhys Darby: Jellyfish smacks are the nemesis of nuke plants

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Oskarshamn nuclear power plant in Oskarshamn, southeastern Sweden.  Photo / AP
Oskarshamn nuclear power plant in Oskarshamn, southeastern Sweden. Photo / AP

What's the go with jellyfish? They're so weird and we know so little about them.

One thing we do know is that they love to hang out in groups. A group of jellyfish is called a fluther or a smack. Recently a fluthering smack of these beasties caused chaos by forcing a shutdown of one of the world's largest nuclear reactors.

The Oskarshamn nuclear plant in Sweden had to scramble its operators to the pipes of one of its reactors after tonnes of jellyfish found their way into the system. The intake pipes are used to bring cold water into the plant's turbines and a constant flow is required to keep the reactor cool. On this occasion however the old saying "your pipes are stuffed with jellyfish" came true and an emergency shutdown was called.

This isn't the first time this sort of thing has happened, as it turns out a lot of nuclear power plants are built next to large bodies of water because it's convenient for cooling. Unfortunately these large bodies of water are more commonly referred to as "the sea" and as we all know, the sea holds within it masses of molecular mayhem.

Back in 2011 the Japanese Fukushima Daiichi plant suffered an epic fail after a tsunami smashed through, damaging all the gear. One can only imagine how much jelly smack must've got through. Last year in California the Diablo Canyon power plant also had to shut down one of its reactors due to jelly-induced clogged pipes.

So what can we do about it, I hear you ask. Well, it turns out there's been some clever thinking going on in South Korea. Some civil engineers have developed a system called the Jellyfish Elimination Robotic Swarm or Jeros for short. It's essentially a group of floating robots that use satellite navigation cameras to detect smacks of jellies. Once the blubby bad boys are located the robots self propel themselves towards them and use nets to guide them into their traps. Yes traps, in the form of high speed shredding propellers ... so it's game over for the fluthering flubs of fury.

To think of this happening may invoke a rather horrific image in your head but hey, it sounds like it's something that has to be done. I don't know about you but jellyfish in general scare the pants off me, which is precisely the opposite thing you want happening when you're swimming in a large body of water. All hail to the South Korean robots I say. After all, there's certainly no shortage of jellyfish in this world. And I would go as far as to suggest they're not even from this world. They're weird beyond belief. One species of jelly, the Turritopsis nutricula is able to retransform its cell state from mature back to immature. In other words, it's mastered immortality. If we don't learn to manage these blobs of wonder then all our pipes'll be stuffed!

- NZ Herald

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