Federal Licensing Update for FPL’s Proposed Turkey Point Reactors: What You Need to Know

This post was written by Kailie Melchior, High Risk Energy Intern with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) with contributions from SACE’s High Risk Energy Program Director, Sara Barczak.

On May 2, 2017 in Homestead, Florida, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the Atomic Safety Licensing Board, heard arguments from the parties challenging Florida Power & Light’s (FPL) request for a federal license to build two additional nuclear reactors (proposed Units 6 and 7) at their existing Turkey Point facility in Miami-Dade County.  Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, National Parks Conservation Association, and two local Miami residents filed this legal challenge back in 2010 and were successful in getting to this important hearing stage.

FPL plans to dispose of the proposed Turkey Point nuclear reactors’ polluted wastewater, that would contain numerous chemical contaminants, including the four highlighted in the litigation: ethylbenzene, heptachlor, tetrachlorethylene, and toluene, by injecting it underground into the Boulder Zone on the assumption that it is completely isolated from the overlying Upper Floridian Aquifer. However, because no seismic study has been done, FPL cannot be certain that the polluted wastewater will not impact the overlying Upper Floridian Aquifer, which is an important future drinking water for south Florida.

On July 10, 2017, against the advice and counsel of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and a number of other environmental groups and individuals concerned about the chemical contaminants migrating from the Boulder Zone into the Upper Floridian Aquifer, a NRC board approved Florida Power & Light’s proposal.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff determined that the public radiation that would likely result from this would be so small “as to be difficult to measure,” and therefore concluded that the radiation would have “no measurable impact on public health.” However, the NRC ignored many important considerations and analysis technologies, such as seismic reflection studies, that can be done to make sure that FPL doesn’t make the dangerous gamble of polluting important drinking water for the people of south Florida.

But, the fight isn’t over; full approval for these proposed nuclear reactors has yet to come. There are other approvals required, including permits to fill hundreds of acres of wetlands, many of which are very unique and ecologically important and connected to the greater Everglades ecosystem. Futhermore, FPL no longer has a builder given Westinghouse’s bankruptcy. In nearby South Carolina, the two under construction AP1000 reactors have just been cancelled and the fate of any future nuclear construction project in the U.S. is unlikely.

Rather than put our faith in a utility that has continually put profits before the health and wellbeing of the people of Florida, SACE is committed to fighting this increasingly speculative nuclear expansion that will be costly not only to FPL customers but also to the region’s water resources and remarkable environmental resources such as Biscayne and Everglades National Parks. Take action today by voicing your concerns to the Florida Public Service Commission as they consider FPL’s request related to the new reactor proposals.

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