Abstract Experiments have been undertaken exposing larval common shrimp ( Crangon crangon) and lobster ( Homarus gammarus) and adult copepods ( Acartia tonsa) to the key stresses of entrainment within power-station cooling-water systems. The apparatus has enabled the testing of mechanical, thermal, chlorine and realistic pressure effects both alone and in combination, the range of stressors spanning the standard conditions found within a temperate coastal direct-cooled power station. Mechanical stresses affected only lobster larvae, pressure changes affected only the Acartia adults. Residual chlorine caused significant mortality of Acartia and shrimp larvae, but had no effect on lobster larvae even at 1 ppm. The temperature increment significantly affected all three species, with a synergistic effect on chlorine sensitivity in the shrimp larvae, but only temperatures higher than would be experienced in a normally-operating power station affected the copepods. The majority of individuals of each species would survive passage through a power-station system under normal conditions. It is notable that, within the species tested, generalizations from the responses of one species to those of another are not valid.