The Impact of Point Lepreau Nuclear Plant on Plankton & Larval Fishes


In 1980 the New Brunswick Electric Power Commission described building a cooling system for the 600 MW nuclear generating station at Point Lepreau as follows:

 Of major consideration in the design of a nuclear power plant is the enormous heat loss from the plant’s operation, and the effective disposal of this heat energy through condensers and turbines into the environment. Heat diffusion was a factor in the selection of the Point Lepreau site. High tides with peak velocities of up to three knots cause effective mixing of the ocean waters and provide a heat sink large enough for two 600 MW units. It was decided to locate an intake tunnel off the east side of the peninsula and an outlet tunnel off the west side, surface structures having been ruled out because of possible wave damage. In addition to water flow rate and velocity, the protection of fish and shellfish, wave impact, and navigational clearance requirements had to be considered in the design of the intake structure.

Unfortunately, the impact on local plankton, invertebrates and fish larvae is not restricted to the impact of discharged wastewater into the Bay of Fundy, the real impact is to marine life killed by heating in the intake system.

A survey of fish landings in the area, showed seriously decreased landings that suggested something was impacting the commercial fishery in the area. To determine the impacts of kills in heated intake water, an analysis of water use was carried out using data from various NB Power publications about Point Lepreau Nuclear.

Estimated volume of water entering the Bay of Fundy each day – Assume, on average, 160 billion tons of water enter the Bay of Fundy on each tide or 160,000,000,000 x 269.01278331309 = 43,042,048,000,000 gallons every day

Estimated water volume at Point Lepreau – Based on data obtained from NB Power’s website, the daily volume of water entering and passing through the cooling system at Point Lepreau is calculated as follows: 25.8 cubic meters per second equals 6,815,639 USLiquid gallons/second or 341,000 lgpm 341,00 lgpm x 1440/min/day = 491,040,000 USL gallons per day.

Estimated percentage of daily tidal water used by Point Lepreau cooling system43,042,048,000,000 divided by 491,040,000 = 1.14 percent daily.

At this rate, it takes approximately 88 days for Point Lepreau to use the equivalent of all tidal waters entering the Bay of Fundy and destroying all the life in their intake cooling water.


The Bay of Fundy is known to be one of the most productive marine locations along the Atlantic coast and planktonic species are the essential element that allows this diversity to thrive.

The plants and animals that are found in these waters are diverse and in addition to phytoplankton, can include adults and larvae from the following animal groups:

  1. Acoela, among the most primitive bilateral animals;
  2. Annelida, (polychaetes and sea leeches);
  3. Brachiopoda, marine animals that have hard “valves” (shells) on the upper and lower surfaces;
  4. Bryozoa, also known as moss animals or sea mats.
  5. Chaetognatha, commonly known as arrow worms, are a phylum of predatory marine worms that are a major component of plankton.
  6. Cephalochordata represented in the modern oceans by the lancelets (also known as Amphioxus);
  7. Cnidaria, such as jellyfish, sea anemones, and corals.
  8. Crustacea, including lobsters, crabs, shrimp, crayfish, barnacles, hermit crabs, mantis shrimps, and copepods;
  9. Ctenophora, also known as comb jellies, the largest animals that swim by means of cilia;
  10. Echinodermata, including sea stars, brittle stars, sea urchins, sand dollars, sea cucumbers, crinoids, and sea daisies;
  11. Echiura, also known as spoon worms;
  12. Gnathostomulids, slender to thread-like worms, with a transparent body that inhabit sand and mud beneath shallow coastal waters;
  13. Gastrotricha, often called hairy backs, found mostly interstitially in between sediment particles;
  14. Hemichordata, includes acorn worms, solitary worm-shaped organisms;
  15. Kamptozoa, goblet-shaped sessile aquatic animals, with relatively long stalks and a “crown” of solid tentacles, also called Entoprocta;
  16. Kinorhyncha, segmented, limbless animals, widespread in mud or sand at all depths, also called mud dragons;
  17. Loricifera, very small to microscopic marine sediment-dwelling animals only discovered in 1983;
  18. Mollusca,including shellfish, squid, octopus, whelks, Nautilus, cuttlefish, nudibranchs, scallops, sea snails, Aplacophora, Caudofoveata, Monoplacophora, Polyplacophora, and Scaphopoda;
  19. Myzostomida, a taxonomic group of small marine worms which are parasitic on crinoids or “sea lilies”;
  20. Nemertinea, also known as “ribbon worms” or “proboscis worms”;
  21. Orthonectida, a small phylum of poorly known parasites of marine invertebrates that are among the simplest of multi-cellular organisms;
  22. Phoronida, a phylum of marine animals that filter-feed with a lophophore (a “crown” of tentacles), and build upright tubes of chitin to support and protect their soft bodies;
  23. Placozoa, small, flattened, multicellular animals around 1 millimetre across and the simplest in structure. They have no regular outline, although the lower surface is somewhat concave, and the upper surface is always flattened;
  24. Porifera (sponges), multicellular organisms that have bodies full of pores and channels allowing water to circulate through them;
  25. Priapulida, or penis worms, are a phylum of marine worms that live marine mud. They are named for their extensible spiny proboscis, which, in some species, may have a shape like that of a human penis;
  26. Pycnogonida, also called sea spiders, are unrelated to spiders, or even to arachnids which they resemble;
  27. Sipunculida, also called peanut worms, is a group containing 144–320 species (estimates vary) of bilaterally symmetrical, unsegmented marine worms;
  28. Tunicata, also known as sea squirts or sea pork, are filter feeders attached to rocks or similarly suitable surfaces on the ocean floor;
  29. Some flatworms of the classes Turbellaria and Monogenea;
  30. Xenoturbella, a genus of bilaterian animals that contains only two marine worm-like species;

From Wikipedia

Arthropods total about 1,113,000, molluscs about 85,000 and chordates about 52,000.

The following images indicate the diversity in our marine waters which are literally filled with creatures of all kinds that are needed in a healthy marine environment.

Based on this analysis, it is apparent that the Point Lepreau Nuclear Station has a major detrimental impact on the marine life of the Bay of Fundy.


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Art MacKay 2022

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