London, April 14 : Reports indicate that due to the nuclear industry in Britain, billions of fish are being killed every year in the seas around the country. According to a report in the Times, the impact is so severe in the worst affected regions of the seas around Britain that death rates are equivalent to half the commercial catch for some species.
Peter Henderson, an Oxford University academic has suggested that coastal power plants that have cooling systems that extract water from the sea are to blame for the high fatality rate.
Figures he has compiled suggest that the damage to fish stocks is much more severe than records have indicated previously.
"With a new generation of nuclear power stations likely to be built over the next 20 years, the threat posed to fish stocks needed to be addressed urgently," he said.
Henderson calculated that had the young fish killed in power stations survived, they would have added thousands of tonnes of fish annually to Britain's stocks.
According to Henderson, too little account is taken of the impact on fish stocks of the deaths of many billions of eggs and young caused by coastal power plants, both nuclear and conventional.
"The number of animals killed is colossal," said Henderson. "Very small fish get sucked in very large numbers," he added.
The report said that the impact on populations is compounded by the loss of prawns and shrimps which, like young fish and eggs, form an important part of the diet of larger animals.
Though coal-fired stations and other installations such as those in the petrochemical industry present similar problems, nuclear plants are among the biggest extractors of water.
Water is pumped from the seas in vast quantities, with British nuclear plants extracting at up to 60 cubic metres (2,100 cubic ft) per second.
Once the water has been used to cool the reactors it is pumped back into the sea where, having been warmed up, it attracts a variety of marine creatures, many of which get caught up in the intake systems and killed.
Fish that are too young or too small to be caught by the 1cm mesh screens - especially pipe fish and eels - travel through them, as do eggs and larvae, and pass into the reactors' cooling pipes. Many die after being heated to 30C, chlorinated and given small doses of radiation.
According to Emily Lewis-Brown, a marine campaigner for WWF, coastal power stations represented a frequently overlooked, additional burden on British fish populations.
"There is evidence to suggest that when power stations stop killing fish, local populations start doing better," she said.