AbstractThe dynamics of cooling water spreading in a non-tidal embayment is subject of a modelling-based study of Greifswald Bay, a shallow embayment at the south-western coast of the Baltic Sea. Potential cooling water spreading due to a possible power plant at Greifswald Bay is evaluated as differences between a realistic hind-cast simulation and a similar simulation but including the cooling water pumping. The model results are confirmed with satellite imagery of the embayment during operation of a nuclear power plant in the 1980s. The effect of cooling water pumping on the residual circulation, additional stratification and the heating of near-bed waters in the herring spawning areas is evaluated from the simulation. The model results for an idealised embayment and the realistic scenario, as well as the satellite images, show a clear dependence of the plume spreading on the wind direction. Although the surface plume affects a large area of the embayment, the results show a localised impact on residual circulation, bulk stratification and heating of the waterbody.