Stop Turkey Point Pollution
Safety Concerns are Rising Along with Sea Level at Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant
The Turkey Point nuclear power plant is located between Biscayne National Park and Everglades National Park and atop the Biscayne Aquifer, South Florida’s primary source of drinking water -- and next to 3 million residents. This facility is owned and operated by FPL and came online in 1971.
A legal victory for resilience, safety, and the environment
Miami Waterkeeper, along with our partners at NRDC and Friends of the Earth, filed a contention with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission against a plan to extend Florida Power and Light’s (FPL’s) plan to operate Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant until the 2050s. Although nuclear power can provide a low-emission energy source, it is not without its own set of concerns. In addition to producing hazardous waste, many nuclear power plants in the United States are located near coasts or rivers because the reactors need vast amounts of cool water to operate safely, the United States’ nuclear fleet was mostly constructed in the 1970s - and without sea level rise in mind. Regulators are determining how to deal with these older reactors and sea level risk -- and Miami’s Turkey Point Power plant is at ground zero and first on the list.
FPL made the nation’s first-ever request to run a nuclear plant until the 2050s -- a total of an 80-year operating license. Turkey Point sits on a low-lying area in a former wetland that is highly susceptible to flooding and storm surges. To make matters worse, FPL has not been planning adequately for sea level rise. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration recommends that critical infrastructure plan for 6 feet of sea level rise by 2100, but FPL insists that preparations for one foot of sea level rise are sufficient (City of Miami DEIS Comments). Floodwater and hurricanes could compromise the cooling system at Turkey Point and threaten the plant's safe operation and nearby ecosystems and species.
Miami Waterkeeper, NRDC, and Friends of the Earth challenges this license extension based on the fact that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was relying on an outdated Environmental Impact Statement that didn’t properly factor in concerns like sea level rise and water quality contamination. Although Miami Waterkeeper and our partners filed a legal challenge against this operating license extension in 2018, the NRC granted FPL the 2052 license extension. After a year of waiting for a ruling on our appeal, the NRC announced on Feb. 24, 2022, that it was rescinding the license extension and will require an updated environmental review of Turkey Point and other aging U.S. nuclear reactors before licensing them to continue to operate for as long as 80 years. This is a big victory for resiliency, water, and the environment. We have to ensure the safety of nuclear power for our community -- and planning for risks is a key part of our future. This decision also affects plants around the country that had applied for these licenses after Turkey Point.
Read our press statement here.
Turkey Point Gets a Rare Safety Downgrade
Turkey Point experienced 4 unplanned shutdowns, or scrams, in the span of just a few months in 2020/2021. Additionally, several staff members were fired for forged safety inspections. The NRC then took the rare step of downgrading Turkey Point’s safety rating. Turkey Point is now one of only 3 (out of 94) operating reactors in the U.S. to have a downgraded safety rating.
Turkey Point is Contaminating our Drinking Water Supply
After the plant was constructed in 1971, it was discovered that Turkey Point was polluting Biscayne Bay by discharging hot water from the cooling system into Biscayne Bay. In response, FPL built an unlined, supposedly “closed-loop” cooling canal system resembling a giant radiator spanning miles -- and sitting atop our drinking water aquifer. This cooling canal system is the first and only of its kind in the world.
South Florida geology is highly porous. Turkey Point's cooling canal system allows water to move from the cooling canals down into the Biscayne Aquifer, carrying with it waste and large quantities of salt. This dense, contaminated water has been sinking through the porous ground and spreading for miles underground. This plume is moving at a rate of over 1 foot per day through the aquifer and is heading straight for the drinking water wellfield that supplies water for the Florida Keys (McThenia et al., 2017). This hypersaline plume has also been demonstrated to be contaminating Biscayne Bay (Chin, 2016). After many legal challenges, FPL was ordered to clean up the plume. However, their remediation plan appears unlikely to successfully withdraw the plume, according to a groundwater modeling specialist peer-reviewed (Groundwater Tek Inc., 2020).
FPL is not Adequately Planning for Sea-Level Rise
The recent decision by the NRC, in response to our legal challenge, to revoke the plant’s license extension through 2052 will also require a new, full NEPA analysis before a license extension can be granted -- a complete environmental review -- and must take a hard look at sea level rise on the plant and water quality impacts from the plant. This decision will mean that nuclear plants will have to prepare for the coming sea level rise using the best available data. This is decision will impact plants around the nation, which will also now have to do a full review of their environmental impacts to extend their operating licenses.