Mar 27, 2024 - News

Artificial reef is restoring marine life at San Onofre power plant

San Onofre nuclear power station

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in 2019. Photo: Leonard Ortiz/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

The artificial reef built to restore the marine habitat harmed by the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station is finally meeting its performance standards — a decade after the power plant shut down.

Why it matters: For more than 30 years, the nuclear power plant's seawater cooling system sucked in 2.4 billion gallons of ocean water a day to cool its reactors, which degraded nearby kelp beds and killed fish and other marine animals off the northern San Diego County coast near Camp Pendleton.

Driving the news: The Wheeler North Reef project, built to offset those losses, met its restoration goals, including improving kelp growth and fish production, for the first time during its three-year existence, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Flashback: The plant shut down in 2013 after defects were found in its replacement steam generators, and it's still being dismantled, per the U-T.

How it works: The 2.5 miles of reef made of rock act as an anchor for giant kelp to grow, creating a canopy-like forest for fish, sea lions, whales, birds and other marine life.

What's next: The reef, among the world's largest made by man, must continue to meet its performance goals for 27 more years.

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