Not a Waste to a Manatee!
A recent news item about manatees seeking out the warm-water discharges from Florida power plants during the recent cold weather reminded me that the thermal discharges from power plants (fossil and nuclear), which have gotten a bad rap most of the time, actually have some benefits. The manatees certainly seem to think so!
This news comes not long after the owners of Oyster Creek announced that they will shut down that unit, the oldest operating nuclear plant in the U.S., in 10 years rather than pay for cooling towers, as the state of New Jersey is demanding. Other plants are facing the same pressures.
Our friends the manatees remind us that one person's trash can be another person's treasure. Or more precisely, in this case, one creature's waste heat can be another creature's salvation. While plants in New Jersey and Florida are in very different climatic areas, it strikes me that, in any such situation, all parties involved should look for a win-win wherever possible. This has happened at plants in the south, where catfish and shrimp are raised commercially in power plant discharge canals, truly turning waste into income. (I was going to say turning waste into cold cash, but the metaphor doesn't quite work.)
Could that be done farther north? I don't know. Aquaculture isn't my specialty. And I am sure that some will argue that the waste heat still modifies the natural environment. (And that warming the manatees changes their natural lifestyle.) But the hard truth is that we need energy and we need food, and we have been modifying the environment ever since we learned to harness fire and farm the land. While we've made mistakes along the way, we've learned from them. Obviously, we need to consider what we displace, and one solution may not work everywhere, but if there are places where we can use plant discharges to save endangered animals or to feed the population, it sounds to me like we've got a win-win.