Opposition to FPL’s Proposed Turkey Point Nuclear Reactors Grows

In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, SACE will be posting a series of blogs highlighting issues that impact Latino communities throughout the Southeast. This is the first blog in that series, and please stay tuned for more entries throughout the month. To view this blog in Spanish, click here.

Over the last several months, much attention has been paid to FPL’s controversial proposal to potentially build two water-intensive new nuclear reactors with a price tag approaching $20 billion at their existing, two-reactor Turkey Point nuclear plant in Miami-Dade County, about 25 miles south of Miami.

Earlier this year the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that recommended licensing the reactors and requested public comments. Three well-attended public hearings were held, one in Miami the day President Obama visited the Everglades to discuss climate change, and two in Homestead. SACE’s George Cavros presented compelling comments in Miami in which several local mayors, state and elected officials, community leaders and others voiced opposition to the licensing of the reactors.

If approved, the two reactors, which may operate for 60 or more years, would make Turkey Point one of the largest nuclear plants in the country, would require using massive amounts of water and degrade water quality, threaten the drinking water supply and jeopardize critical wildlife habitat for neighboring Biscayne National Park and ongoing Everglades restoration efforts.

Most recently, the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) held a hearing in August to consider Florida Power & Light’s (FPL) request for over $34 million combined in advanced cost recovery, or “nuclear tax,” from their customers. Since 2008, the PSC has granted FPL over $250 million in cost recovery. SACE again intervened and was not the only party protesting this fleecing of Florida ratepayers. The City of Miami sponsored an expert witness, calling into question the feasibility of the project, and the Office of Public Counsel’s expert witness cited significant cost increases experienced at the four AP1000 reactors under construction at Southern Company’s Plant Vogtle in Georgia and SCANA’s V.C. Summer in South Carolina.

Elected officials in South Florida including State Representative José Javier Rodríguez, who spoke at the hearing, Mayor Tomas Regalado of the City of Miami, Mayor Cindy Lerner of the City of Pinecrest, Mayor Phillip Stoddard of the City of South Miami have also raised concerns about the Turkey Point expansion and requested the PSC to hold hearings in Miami given the impacts specifically to that area. The Commission denied their request.

As SACE highlighted in our final brief, the net cumulative fuel savings benefits of the project, extolled by FPL as the prime benefit for customers, may not be realized by customers, in today’s dollars, until 60 years from today. A 45-year old customer today will not realize a net economic benefit, in today’s dollars, until that customer reached 105 years old. A significant percentage of customers in the counties that FPL serves will move away or pass away or their business will close before realizing any cumulative fuel savings benefit from the project, if at all – forcing customers to pay today for an alleged benefit that they will likely never receive in their lifetime. In the case of Palm Beach County, almost 50 % of the customers are 45 year of age or older.

The PSC will vote on whether to approve FPL’s request on October 19.

The simple fact is this: there is no need for the proposed reactors. They have been delayed several times and the in-service date pushed back at least ten years and FPL has not even committed to actually completing the project.

Florida has far better energy choices. Energy efficiency not only can help customers save money on their electric bills by reducing their energy use, but it is also the lowest cost resource in meeting electricity demand at an investment of less than 3 cents per kWh. This is a fraction of the levelized cost of the proposed reactors, which is almost 17 cents per kWh.

There are opportunities for concerned members of the public to oppose this project that, if built, will impact surrounding communities and FPL customers’ electric utility bills. These reactors are not the answer to Florida’s energy needs.

Please sign this petition (en Espanol) opposing the federal licensing of the proposed reactors and spread the word. It is long past time for the big power companies, elected officials, regulators and others to realize that Floridians want clean, safe affordable energy options, such as solar and energy efficiency, that are not vulnerable to the threats posed by climate change.

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The existing Turkey Point reactors were part of my inspiration for becoming a nuclear professional. When I was about 8 years old, my dad, a career electrical engineer for FP&L came home one day and started telling me about the new plants his company was building that would not even need a smokestack. By that time, I had visited several of the company’s plants and seen the fuel tanks and wondered about where all the smoke was going.

That began a lifelong quest to learn as much as I could about the technology that made smokestack free power possible. I was equally fascinated by the comparatively minuscule quantity of fuel the new plants would consume.

During my career, I spent many months at a time sealed underwater in a submarine with a nuclear plant that produced power that was so clean, it could run inside that sealed ship indefinitely. It was fueled by a tiny quantity of uranium arranged in a heat exchanger that could fit under my office desk. Of course, that heat exchanger was surrounded by a much larger shield and water tank, but it was still very compact considering the power output. The fuel lasted for 14 years; modern versions now last for 33 years without refueling.

The generational equity issue raised in your blog is troubling since many of the people living in South Florida today are benefiting from the investment in Turkey Point reactors made in the early 1960s and will continue benefiting for another decade or more. That is what humans do; we build lasting infrastructure for our future generations.

I will agree on one point; it is not yet time to commit to the AP1000 since there are not yet any of them operating anywhere around the world. Within a couple of years, the first ones should start operating in China and provide the confidence required to go forward with the project. This is not a recommendation to stop working; there is always a lot of preparatory work required for such a large and valuable investment.

Rod Adams
Publisher, Atomic Insights

Comment by Rod Adams on September 16, 2015 3:29 am

I agree with Rod Adams (though we often disagree on nuclear issues), it is not yet time to commit to the AP 1000 design. Let’s wait a couple of years. But unlike Rod, i am not willing to use the Chinese plants as a model. China has virtually no independent nuclear inspectorate, no real regulator. We should wait until the reactors in Georgia and South Carolina are completed and if we feel like these have given us good value for the money, then go forward at Turkey Point.

But if you know the history of nuclear construction in the US or at these two AP 1000 sites, you know that this strategy is a the death knell for Turkey Point 3 and 4. This design is already years late and billions over budget in the US, and these projects just started in 2013.

You could also imagine that Floridians care about their utility bills. Optimistic projections of $ 0.16/kwh for the power from these proposed reactors should send alarm bells ringing. This is about 3 times the current wholesale price for electricity in the region. With gas prices down, battery technology scaling up, renewables, especially solar and wind, prices coming down and reasonable person would ditch pricey nuclear in a heartbeat.

But the utility is not interested in being reasonable, they would prefer we did the thing which guarantees them the highest profits, which will be sticking to the rate payers this increadibly expensive project, despite cheaper and cleaners solutions being available.

Comment by Paxus Calta on September 17, 2015 8:01 am

Unlike Paxus Calta, I am not sanguine about the future price and availability of natural gas. Though many people don’t trust the promises of the nuclear industry, history has proven that it is even more risky to trust the price predictions and promises of the world’s petroleum producers. Though marketed as a different product, natural gas is just another hydrocarbon produced by the same companies and from the same holes in the ground that provide diesel fuel and gasoline.

Though battery technology is “scaling up” as Paxus says, it has a long way to go before it can provide useful quantities of electricity storage. All the batteries in the US combined would store about 15 minutes worth of our electricity supply. Consider all of the materials involved in that statement – several hundred million lead acid storage batteries in automobiles and trucks, the non rechargeable batteries in flashlights, hearing aids and remote controls, and the growing quantities of lithium ion batteries in phones, laptops and electric vehicles.

Nuclear projects have their cost challenges, especially since people like Paxus encouraged the US to abandon our ability to build new plants for about three decades. While the nuclear plants built in the 1960s and 1970s have continued to generate reliable, emission free electricity at total production costs on the order of 2 cents per kilowatt hour, the coal and natural gas plants that were built instead of nuclear have doubled our rate of CO2 emissions from electrical production and caused significant fluctuations in the fuel price adjustment portion of electrical power bills.

FP&L and its employees will certainly benefit from building and operating nuclear plants. So will Florida residents. Depending on continued low prices for natural gas piped from several hundred miles away is not a good bet over the long term.

Solar is guaranteed to be unavailable for about 12 hours per day, every day and more than that when the clouds come in. Wind is also apt to disappear for days at a time; I grew up in South Florida and was often able to water ski in the open ocean because there was NO WIND. Sure, there are often sea breezes in the afternoon due to temperature differences between the water and the land, but how many Floridians want 300-500 foot tall wind turbine towers near the beaches?

Comment by Rod Adams on September 17, 2015 10:27 am

Figuring it starts at home, I did a little conservation projects. Two years later, my electric bill was cut in half. That’s what we can accomplish with energy conservation, while FPL insists that even one percent is out of reach. After that, I put 7500 watts of German-American PV on the roof, a $15,350 outlay, $11,500 after the federal tax credit. I pushed so much power to the grid that I bought a used Nissan Leaf to soak up the extra. Now I break even. Two of the Tesla battery packs would level out my power across 24 hours. If we maxed out the PV capacity of the suburban rooftops, we’d only need natural gas power for cloudy spells, and we’d never build another nuclear plant using the current technologies.

Comment by Philip Stoddard on October 17, 2015 7:21 pm

Thank you Mayor Stoddard for sharing your household’s successful attempt to become an energy efficient, renewable energy producer – that’s inspirational and shows that it CAN be done! With energy efficiency at a fraction of the levelized estimated costs of the new Turkey Pt reactors (3 cents/kWh vs 17 cents/kWh), it’s the first energy resource that should be tapped in Florida. Thanks for all you do to move Florida forward towards a truly clean, safe and affordable energy future.

Comment by Sara Barczak on October 18, 2015 11:24 am

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