SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Federal Regulators Disregard Safety Concerns at FPL’s St. Lucie 2 Reactor
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy maintains that serious safety issues have not been addressed, lack of transparency and regulatory scrutiny prevent public from knowing true risks and costs
Contact: Jennifer Rennicks, SACE, 865-235-1448, email@example.com
Tampa, Fl. (December 22, 2014) ///PRESS STATEMENT/// On Friday, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) rejected the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s request for a public hearing to be held regarding major changes made by FPL to the design of the St. Lucie Unit 2 steam generators, components that are critical for removal of heat from a reactor. The St. Lucie Unit 2 reactor is located near Fort Pierce, Florida, about 50 miles north of West Palm Beach and has the most damaged steam generator tubes of any operating reactor in the country.
SACE filed its original hearing request shortly after the Unit 2 shutdown began in March 2014 for a planned refueling outage and inspection of its troubled steam generators. SACE argued that FPL made significant changes to the original steam generator design in 2007, without notifying the public and that the NRC technical staff went along with the design changes, despite the fact that the revised design may be responsible for the unprecedented degree of deterioration shown by the steam generators during inspections since the design change. SACE also raised concerns about the utility’s neglect of the 10CFR 50.59 regulatory processes. SACE’s original legal filings were supported by an expert witness declaration from nuclear engineering expert Arnie Gundersen with Fairewinds Associates.
In March 2012, the first refueling outage since FPL increased the power rating of the reactor in 2012 occurred. SACE argued that the uprate further stressed the already-damaged steam generator tubes. SACE requested that NRC conduct a public hearing on how and why the NRC technical staff effectively modified the operating license for St. Lucie Unit 2 reactor when it allowed FPL to operate the reactors with re-designed steam generators at an evident and growing risk to public safety. The results of the March/April steam generator tube inspection were finally made publicly available more than six months later. The report showed that extensive damage has continued. This prompted SACE to issue an amended hearing request and supplemental expert declaration from Mr. Gundersen.
Dr. Stephen A. Smith, executive director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, issued this statement in response to the NRC’s decision:
“Safety is our first concern and that is why we originally filed this petition for hearing and subsequently provided even more information once the most recent tube inspection report was issued – so that the extent of the damage to the steam generators could be known and shared with the public. We are extremely disappointed that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s appears to have not evaluated the merits of the case despite our serious, well documented and researched safety concerns that continue to plague FPL’s St. Lucie Unit 2 nuclear reactor. The most important consideration should be the health and safety of the more than one million people that live within a 50-mile radius of this reactor.
This deficient decision underscores our grave concerns about the lack of proper regulatory oversight in this case. We believe that FPL and the NRC haven’t properly documented critical changes that took place at St. Lucie Unit 2 that are causing damage to the steam generators and both the utility and the regulator are hiding behind the flawed 50.59 process. FPL is operating outside of their license and that was our motivation for filing the hearing request. We believe the extensive evidence we presented should have caused the Commission to grant our hearing request. Regardless, we stand by our safety concerns.
Despite this decision, we maintain that FPL has not prudently managed or operated the St. Lucie Unit 2 steam generators and this is causing the unprecedented damage that will lead to premature replacement, potentially costing customers hundreds of millions of dollars. These are serious financial implications. The utility has changed the reactor design of St. Lucie Unit 2, misled the public about these changes and continues damaging a key component within the reactor during every fuel cycle. Florida ratepayers will continue to pay a high price for poor decisions made by FPL and this must be investigated by the Florida Public Service Commission. Neighbors of this reactor and FPL customers are entitled to this information as a matter of public accountability.”
Access additional information, including the Commission’s order, here.
Founded in 1985, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is a nonprofit organization that promotes responsible energy choices that create global warming solutions and ensure clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the Southeast. Learn more at www.cleanenergy.org.