Tuesday, May 06, 2008
FPL Turkey Point Nuclear: not so fast, by gimleteye
There is one good reason Miami-Dade County is the first place where America's utility industry is moving forward with new nuclear capacity in three decades.
In Miami-Dade, Florida Power & Light found public officials malleable as silly putty, willing to allow a local agreement with a wink to substitute for solid facts that the public had the right to know--where the cooling water will come from at a time of chronic drought, where it will go when it is evaporated, and what will its effects be on public health and the environment.
This is South Florida, where "take the money and run" prevails. Just gaze at the sprawl from the Florida Turnpike, hundreds of acres of Mediterranean tile roofs were going up even as the housing bubble was collapsing. Under such conditions, why couldn't FPL build new nuclear at the edge of two national parks?
You have only the herons, manatees, panthers and crocodiles to complain. And who will defend them? Federal agencies that allow the wetlands to be torn up for rock mines at a fearsome pace.
FPL would like to make Biscayne National Park the model for the utility industry's command over environmental regulations, but it is turning itself in the process into the prime example of the failed response by industry to the challenges of global warming.
The lowest hanging fruit in the quest for energy independence is conservation and efficiency improvements in electricity distribution. But government mandates, at both the state and the federal level, have not caught up to this order of priority. Instead, utilities want to have their cake and eat it too: keep the model of growth based on volume of power generated and use the threat of Mideast oil disruption and global warming to impose vast, new costs on public health and the environment without conceding the need to change business models.
No utility executive yet has gone to jail for destroying the climate, and every utility executive is compensated with salary, options and bonuses based on growing the pool of energy.
In South Florida, government participates in the effort by industry to plow platted subdivisions in watersheds critical for human enterprise and restoration of the Everglades, you have a good chance of putting radioactive materials that will be poisonous for tens of thousands of years-- long after the seas rise to flood everything but the proposed twenty foot high fill pad extending nearly 400 acres from sea level.
Shouldn't taxpayers and ratepayers know what the added burden could likely be, fifty years from now, when the $16 billion ratepayer investment will either have to be decommissioned, or, all access roads and service from sea level rise? And, at the same time, shouldn't cost models factor in the risk to FPL's consumer base? Who will pay, then, if sea level rise causes massive reduction of the rate base?
In the debate to move the Urban Development Boundary (today, the Miami-Dade county commission will vote whether to override Mayor Carlos Alvarez' veto), there was input from county staff, apparently without question by elected officials, on the issue of the agreement between the state and county for new water sources.
The State of Florida has refused any more withdrawals from the Biscayne aquifer. New water must be "made up" through industrial cleansing, polishing, and decontamination on a scale yet untested. No surprise, then, that the county's point of view is that it has satisfied all requirements, (the promise of engineering and technology absorbs doubt like a paper towel) even though wastewater reuse facilities are a decade from being completed. And even though the effect of treated wastewater on nearby coastal wetlands and seagrass meadows is unknown.
How little regard the county has for its commitment to the state is embedded in the fact that the issue of where FPL is going to get the water for its nuclear units never came up at all in the discussion about the Urban Development Boundary.
And yet ratepayers are already paying for FPL's plan.
FPL has answered its critics to date; we don't know about the water supply. But someone does know. Today The Miami Herald reported that Westinghouse has been selected as the contractor. Yet there has been no disclosure to the public of the design or the water input requirements. Miami Dade county environmental staff is in the dark, as is the State of Florida which is patiently waiting for data even as FPL puts more than $100 million to work in furtherance of its plan, supported by a surcharge to consumers.
The Herald did a considerable disservice to the public in failing to even mention the water supply question.
Water managers know that water will be in chronically short supply in South Florida. They have required Miami Dade county county commissioners to do what the commissioners would never do on their own: require the investment by taxpayers of billions of dollars to upgrade facilities including new wastewater reuse infrastructure.
If water for cooling electric utilities is the biggest component of the region's water supply, and if a significant amount of water daily is going to be evaporated to cool the new reactors, why in God's green earth would Miami-Dade and Florida approve FPL moving forward without telling the public exactly what the environmental costs will be?
Why isn't the public being told, well in advance of FPL using consumers' funds to fight civic and environmental groups that will sue to uphold federal laws, the facts?
There is no honor to a county and city that pays such little regard to the costs to the environment and the public health.