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Florida Nuclear Plant Awarded Extension to 2053

image credit: ID 29232831 © Melinda Fawver | Dreamstime.com

Just this past Thursday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission signed off Florida Power and Light’s most recent extension application for their Turkey Point nuclear power plant. The decision means Turkey Point should be up and running until 2053. It should also be noted that this is the first time the commission has signed off to extend  the operating lifespan of nuclear reactors to 80 years—the reactors went into operation in 1972 and 1973. 

This news may come as a surprise to some observers given the plant’s PR problems over the past decade. The controversy has centered around the Turkey Point’s aging cooling system—a canal system that’s unique in the U.S. At some point, water began leaking, setting off a large saltwater plume in the Biscayne Bay. What’s more, a few years ago, radioactive isotopes were observed in the same area, leading the state’s Department of Environmental Protection to stop the plume from spreading and halt contamination within 10 years. 

Turkey Point operators have put forth a plan to repurpose waste water to cool the canals, which should cut their dependence on the bay’s water. 

As I’m not a nuclear expert, it’s hard to understand the scale of Turkey Point’s environmental challenges. I also wonder if there’s if there's reason to be concerned about the plant’s vulnerability to hurricanes? 

All that being said, it’s refreshing to read about nuclear being embraced by state authorities. It seems every week a new plant closure is celebrated in the press as a victory for the environment, despite mounting evidence that nuclear is the short and medium term solution to our global warming crisis. In fact, a new MIT study was just released this week showing nuclear’s potential to cut carbon emissions without breaking the bank.

Henry Craver's picture

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Discussions

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 8, 2019 4:54 pm GMT

Henry, nuclear plants are the least-vulnerable to weather of all sources of electricity. As it turns out, the robust construction employed by U.S. plants to protect the public also serves to protect them from weather.

Not hurricanes, but sea level rise threatens nuclear plants, particularly in Florida. I'd be amazed if Turkey Point makes it to 2053 before being forced to shut down by high water, but it won't matter - most of the residents it serves will have been forced to leave. By 2100 climatologists estimate all that will remain of the state is a central spine about 40 miles wide, no doubt occupied by a pitiably-small number of climate-denying holdouts. It will be a miserable existence, no doubt, but my sympathy for them is limited. May they reap what they've sown.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Dec 9, 2019 1:10 pm GMT

By 2100 climatologists estimate all that will remain of the state is a central spine about 40 miles wide

Is this a business-as-usual scenario? 2 degrees? 3 degrees?

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 10, 2019 4:54 pm GMT

There have been several simulations of sea-level rise, this one from NOAA shows inundation profiles for SLR up to 10ft:

https://coast.noaa.gov/slr/

James Hansen et al have predicted up to 15 meters (~45 ft) of rise if global average temperature reaches +2°C. If current trends continue, by 2100 we'll have exceeded +2C° by a considerable margin.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Dec 10, 2019 5:16 pm GMT

Well silver lining-- my house may soon enough be ocean-front property and I didn't have to pay for the sea view!

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 10, 2019 7:21 pm GMT

There's your real estate strategy - buy residences behind those on the beach, sell when they're on the beach. In 80-90 years, you'll be a rich man!

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