If you’ve been following our challenges against FPL, you know that in September Miami Waterkeeper traveled up to our nation’s capital, Washington D.C., for oral arguments before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. The hearing focused on whether or not Miami Waterkeeper and our partners would be entitled to a hearing to formally challenge the license renewal application for FPL's Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant. This license renewal would allow the plants to operate for an additional 20 years - which would make them the oldest reactors in the United States.
Miami Waterkeeper, in partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council and Friends of the Earth, has challenged the granting of the operating license on the grounds that FPL is not adequately considering listed species, sea-level rise scenarios, and ongoing groundwater contamination.
Photo Credit: Keys News
Unfortunately, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board did not meet our level of concern and denied our contentions and requests. We argued six contentions before the board:
- The Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (“DSEIS”, the document that describes the effects of the proposed activities on the environment) does not adequately analyze the potential benefits of utilizing mechanical draft cooling towers—the cooling mechanism used by most other nuclear power plants—instead of the cooling canal system.
- The DSEIS does not adequately analyze the potential detrimental impacts of ammonia releases during the proposed twenty-year extension period. Specifically, impacts to the listed species.
- The DSEIS fails to take a ‘hard look’ at groundwater quality.
- The DSEIS does not take the required ‘hard look’ at the impacts on surface waters via groundwater. The conclusion that impacts will be small is not based on reliable modeling, improperly substitutes requirements and oversight imposed by the state and county for a proper NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) analysis, and is contradicted by new reports and expert opinions.
- The DSEIS fails to take the required ‘hard look’ at cumulative impacts on water resources because FPL’s remediation and freshening efforts will not be successful and allow state and county requirements to take precedent over NEPA.
- The DSEIS fails to take the required ‘hard look’ at impacts on groundwater use conflicts. The DSEIS conclusion that conflicts from continued operation of the Turkey Point plant will be small for the Biscayne aquifer and moderate for the Upper Floridan aquifer is improper because the rate of groundwater withdrawal necessary to hit salinity targets and retract the hypersaline plume is substantially higher than what is evaluated in the DSEIS, which will result in greater groundwater use conflicts than contemplated by the DSEIS.
The board denied these contentions, primarily because it found that the conclusions and reasonings in the DSEIS were sufficient. Although our challenges were denied at the licensing board level, Miami Waterkeeper and our partners plan to seek recourse through an appellate process before the full Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
We will continue to pursue these challenges against FPL because we do not feel it is enough to merely check boxes in the regulatory process; we need to protect our drinking water supply, sensitive habitats, and endangered and threatened species to the fullest possible extent.
Since the ASLB decision, the NRC staff has also issued a Final Environmental Impact Statement for the subsequent license renewal at Turkey Point. This FEIS assessed environmental issues at the site and concluded that “the adverse environmental impacts of subsequent license renewal for Turkey Point are not so great that preserving the option of license renewal for energy-planning decisionmakers would be unreasonable.” That is, they did not find that the impacts from operating these reactors through the 2050s would be severe -- in fact, most impacts (including those to groundwater and aquatic resources) were classified as "small to moderate" in the report. You can read our comments on the draft version of this EIS here.
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