Federal Licensing Panel Grants Challenge of FPL’s License Extension for Turkey Point Nuclear Plant

Panel Supports Clean Energy Organization’s Concerns Over Polluting Cooling Canal System

March 8, 2019
Contact: Contact: Jennifer Rennicks, SACE, 865-235-1448, [email protected]

Miami, Fla. (March 8, 2019) – The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) received a favorable ruling from a federal licensing panel in an order issued late Thursday. The order grants SACE a hearing on Florida Power & Light’s (FPL’s) controversial plans to extend the life of its 1970s-era nuclear reactors at Turkey Point until 2053. The panel will consider whether FPL violated federal law by failing to consider the benefits of mechanical draft cooling towers as a means for reducing the longstanding adverse environmental impacts of the plant’s leaking cooling canal system. The panel also agreed to consider the effects of continuing to operate the cooling system on the American Crocodile, a Threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

FPL is the first utility in the country to try to get its operating license, which originally lasted for 40 years, extended to last for an unprecedented 80 years. SACE challenged FPL’s application to a federal panel under the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and at a hearing in December 2018, three administrative judges comprising the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) considered their hearing request, which contested FPL’s plan to continue operating the reactors’ failing cooling canal system (CCS) that is polluting Biscayne Bay and threatening South Florida’s drinking water aquifer.

SACE argued that if FPL wants to run Turkey Point for decades longer, the utility should replace the outdated and environmentally damaging CCS with updated technology of mechanical draft cooling towers, already used at other facilities around the country and at the Turkey Point site for Unit 5, and previously approved for new reactors once proposed for the site. Only by using these closed-loop cooling systems can FPL protect drinking water resources, neighboring Biscayne National Park and the National Marine Sanctuary, and ongoing adjacent Everglades restoration projects.

“We are very pleased with this decision. We challenged FPL’s proposal to run Turkey Point for decades longer than anticipated because the plant is not being properly managed. This open industrial sewer is polluting Biscayne Bay and putting South Florida’s critical drinking water supplies at risk today – this cannot continue into the 2050s,” said Sara Barczak, regional advocacy director with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “Fortunately, there are practical solutions that can fix this FPL-created mess and it’s long-past time for FPL to right these wrongs and move on.”

SACE also hailed the panel’s referral to the top level of the NRC the group’s argument that FPL may not rely on a generic environmental analysis prepared by the NRC in 1996. While two of the three judges would allow FPL to rely on the outdated study, a third judge sided with SACE, calling it unlawful. Now the NRC Commissioners must resolve the dispute.

“We are hopeful that the Commissioners will agree with SACE that the 1996 environmental analysis was never meant to support reactor operation beyond 60 years,” said SACE attorney Diane Curran.


Additional information:

Find SACE’s hearing request to the NRC filed August 1, 2018 here, the March 7, 2019 ASLB order here and the dissent here.

SACE was not alone in their concerns over Turkey Point’s failing cooling canal system operating for decades longer. The federal panel also accepted two arguments from joint petitioners Miami Waterkeeper, NRDC and Friends of the Earth and granted Monroe County’s request to participate as an interested governmental participant.

Additionally, numerous entities, including Miami-Dade County, Monroe County, Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority (FKAA) and the National Park Service, among others, previously filed environmental scoping comments regarding FPL’s subsequent license renewal application with the NRC about the threats an additional 20 years of operation at Turkey Point poses to Everglades and Biscayne National Parks and surrounding communities.

Those comments were to be considered by the NRC as they develop the draft Environmental Impact Statement, which is expected to be issued this month with public meetings expected in April and the public comment period ending in May. Find the NRC’s webpage on the subsequent license renewal for Turkey Point here.


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