Effects of thermal discharges on the microstructural growth of Mercenaria mercenaria
- 1) Department of Geology, Rutgers University, 08903, New Brunswick, New Jersey, U.S.A.
The effects of thermal discharges from the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station at Barnegat Bay, New Jersey, are recorded in the microstructural growth ofMercenaria mercenaria, a common coastal marine pelecypod. The analysis of the shell microstructure shows that this bivalve acts as an effective monitor of the environmental conditions existing in the marine waters adjacent to the power station. Many physiological and environmental events such as spawning, winter (freeze) shocks, summer (heat) shocks, thermal shocks, tidal cycles, and major storms are clearly recorded in the shell microstructure. The exact time of occurrence of these events can be determined by counting daily growth increments backwards from the outer shell margins of freshly killed individuals. Microstructural growth patterns reflected in Barnegat Bay specimens indicate that these pelecypods were affected mainly by temperature extremes, temperature variations, tides, type of substratum, and age. Growth patterns in specimens from areas surrounding Oyster Creek (affected by thermal effluent) are significantly different from those from other bay localities (unaffected by thermal effluent).Mercenaria mercenaria within approximately a 1.6km radius of Oyster Creek show a lower summer growth rate (10 percent to 25 percent lower) and a greater number of growth breaks (2 to 6 more per clam) than those away from the creek. The lower summer growth rates occur in bivalves subjected to the effluent because the added heat during the summer months causes water temperatures to exceed a critical threshold for optimum growth in the species. The greater number of growth breaks takes place, in turn, because many of the breaks (thermal shock breaks) are generated by rapidly fluctuating temperatures associated with abrupt shutdowns, massive load reductions and rapid renewal of operations following shutdowns or load reduction periods at the nuclear power station. In addition, the effluent may be upsetting natural spawning events in the clams when abrupt changes in power station operations overlap with spawning periods. In this respect, spawning may be precluded by sharp temperature changes which result in physiological shocks to the animal.
- 1 - natural sciences
- 2 - earth & environmental sciences
- 3 - environmental sciences
- 1 - sciences appliquees, technologies et medecines
- 2 - sciences biologiques et medicales
- 3 - sciences biologiques fondamentales et appliquees. psychologie