Friday, December 21, 2007

Turkey Point reactors get green light

Dec. 21, 2007

Turkey Point reactors get green light.

Despite appeals from environmentalists Miami-Dade approved an initial step in the long process of FPL adding two nuclear reactors to its Turkey Point plant.

Miami-Dade County commissioners cleared the way Thursday for what could be the state's first nuclear power expansion in decades, signing off on a zoning change allowing Florida Power & Light to add two new reactors at Turkey Point.

Thursday's vote was the first step -- but a critical one -- in a lengthy review by regulatory agencies.

The approval, on an 11-1 vote, came despite appeals from wary national park managers, environmentalists and residents to put off the decision and several commissioners acknowledging they had unanswered questions themselves.

For starters: FPL has yet to figure out where it will get the 60 million to 80 million gallons of water a day it needs in a booming county already struggling with shortages.

''Do we get one resource, energy, at the expense of another, water?'' asked Commissioner Katy Sorenson, who wanted the vote deferred and was the lone ''no'' vote. Commissioner Audrey Edmonson was absent.

But Dennis Moss, whose district includes the power plant in deep South Miami-Dade, said the county's electrical demands would grow, and Turkey Point, which already has two reactors, was the most sensible place for an expansion.

''Turkey Point is there. It's not going anywhere,'' he said. ``We're better off, in my opinion, staying at that particular location as opposed to moving it somewhere like the Redland.''

FPL representatives said they would supply more answers once it completes its final designs, expected in 15 months, but stressed that county interests would be protected through a range of conditions attached to the permit.

Still more than a decade from completion, and with years of state and federal approval yet to come, the $12 billion to $18 billion project -- depending on the technology FPL chooses -- would more than double the capacity of two existing reactors now at FPL's complex along Biscayne Bay in South Miami-Dade County.

It would allow the county, which currently imports as much as 40 percent of its energy, to become virtually independent, FPL executives said.

In January, FPL intends to seek approval for the site from the Florida Public Service Commission. It hopes to file a formal application with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission by the end of 2008. Federal review is expected to take five years. The reactors, if approved, would go on line in 2018 and 2020.

Thursday's zoning vote drew a small crowd of opponents from across the state. Most were more concerned with the heavy water demands for the reactors' cooling pools than fear of nuclear energy.

Local attorney Tucker Gibbs said he was concerned that commissioners were moving forward too fast because FPL hadn't submitted a plan stating where it would get the water it intends to use.

''The applicant hasn't shown the source of the water that will be used to cool the plants. They haven't shown the impact on the environment or the wetlands,'' said Gibbs, asking for a deferral. ``Staff and you do not have the information right now.''

Yet more people spoke in favor of the giant energy provider's plan.

And in the end, commissioners sided with those who portrayed FPL as a ''good neighbor'' that would provide new needed jobs and a clean fuel source.

Former nuclear industry employee Jose Ramos said the use of nuclear power will save contaminants from polluting ``our bays, our beaches, our skies, not to mention our lungs.''

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