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By Attorney Bonnie Rippingille Schoedinger, ORCA Liaison

Our new Florida green Republican Governor, Ron DeSantis inherited environmental issues that substantially affect the quality of our water in Florida.  In his recent State of the State speech, the Governor concluded that our state’s “unique natural environment is central to our economy, our quality of life and our identity as Floridians 
 
Florida Power and Light, a public utility, operates the Turkey Point Power Plant which lies between the Everglades and Biscayne National Park and is   approximately 5.5 miles from our shores. FPL is using water from an unlined, open and climate dependent 6,000 acre canal system to cool the nuclear reactors. The canals lie above the Biscayne Aquifer, our primary source of drinking water and have been leaking pollution into the aquifer and the Biscayne National Park for decades. 
 
Leading engineers, scientists and environmentalists assert that the best option to cool the nuclear reactors are cooling towers which will allow the  discontinuance, cleanup and closure of the Canals and eliminate the pollution.  They are an affordable, more reliable and safer solution that can be completed in three to four years. Unfortunately, FPL has continued to refuse to consider this nuclear energy industry standard solution and will not do so unless they are made to do so by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) as a condition of the renewal of the plant’s operating license.
 
The good news is that Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) has been joined by the National Resource Defense Council, an international environmental advocacy group and other environmental groups and scored a big win on March 8 when the NRC ordered a full hearing on whether 
FPL failed to consider the alternative cooling technology of mechanical draft cooling towers as a means for reducing the longstanding adverse environmental impacts of the leaking cooling canal system. 

Why We Need Cooling Towers 

 

The sea grass and other wildlife, which grew naturally in the canals, died due to high water temperatures and the hyper-saline conditions (3 times the salt concentration of seawater). The decaying sea grass and wildlife created nutrients (pollutants) which fed algal blooms that acted as a blanket and reduced the waters ability to cool the reactors. These nutrients include phosphorous, ammonia, TKN, total nitrogen, radioactive tritium and chlorophyll which flow into the aquifer and bay. Cooling towers would not leak pollution as they are a closed system. 


The Canals are at sea level and the surge from violent storms, like Hurricane Irma, washed polluted water back from the canals into the bay and Card Sound. Sea levels are expected to rise in the future, with accompanying higher tides that will exacerbate the pollution and interfere with the safe operation of the reactors. This would not be an issue with the cooling towers as they are enclosed and constructed well above sea level. 

 

FPL has been cited and fined by Miami-Dade Department of Environmental Resources Management as well as by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection after they discovered a hyper-saline polluted plume extending out miles in all directions including towards Monroe County water well fields which are in Miami-Dade.  The plan uses extraction wells to attempt to pull back the plume and also massive amounts of water from the Floridan aquifer to keep the canals cooled and dilute the pollution. Critics say this system will make the pollution worse as the pressure created will push the pollution down and into the aquifer and bays.  Now in its third year of operation, critics say that the remedy does not appear to be working. 


There are (3) separate proceedings pertaining to the operation of the nuclear reactors at Turkey Point.  They are:

 

1) The Clean Water Act (CWA) lawsuit filed in June 2016 by SACE, Friends of the Everglades, and Tropical Audubon against FPL, will be tried in Federal Court in Miami in May 2019. If the revised permit to pollute groundwater and the bay as described below is granted, it will seriously impact the lawsuit and the NRC license renewal proceeding.


2) The FPL Proposed Revised Permit with the FDEP- After multiple motions by FPL to dismiss the CWA lawsuit failed, FPL is now trying a new tactic to avoid compliance with the Clean Water Act and its permit. They are proposing revised language that appears to allow FPL to discharge currently-identified pollutants indirectly into groundwater and bay without violation and penalty which the EPA and the SFWMD approved during the prior gubernatorial administration. A public hearing will be held in late April on this issue.


3) The Proposed Subsequent License Renewal Application (SLRA) with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)- In 2016, FPL became  the first utility in the country to seek a renewal of its original 40-year operating license for an unprecedented 80 years. SACE, Earth Justice, Miami Waterkeeper and The National Resource Defense have joined in the demand that the cooling towers be required as a condition of the renewal. 


What You Can Do


We need to come together as a community now to support the industry recognized best technology, the cooling tower solution, because this may be our last and best chance to do so.  Ocean Reef Club and ORCA, although not involved in the lawsuit and the other described proceedings, have financially supported the collection of technical data, water quality testing and scientific opinions on the status of the health of the bay waters and the aquifer in order to keep current on the condition of our surrounding water environment. This information is also being used to support these proceedings. 

 

The dates for the FDEP and the NRC public hearings will be set in April or May 2019 and dates will provided to you. We urgently need you to participate in the upcoming public hearings and to submit comments now to Governor DeSantis. He is listening! You can do so by clicking here or by emailing Governor DeSantis directly at GovernerRon.DeSantis@eog.myflorida.com

 
The preservation of our unique quality of life that we enjoy at Ocean Reef depends upon your support.

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