In 2007, FPL sought and obtained an unusual use permit from the county for two new nuclear reactors. If built, the South Dade facility would be one of the largest nuclear reactor sites in the nation. At the time, environmentalists (including me) complained that the county elected officials should not approve the permit without full disclosure how FPL intended to "cool" the planned nukes, pointing out that the cooling source for the existing nuclear reactors, called Unit Three and Unit Four, was causing massive salt water intrusion and pointing out that FPL had been stonewalling both the county and the South Florida Water Management District on the matter for years. By failing to address stipulated prevention of salt water intrusion, FPL was in violation of its legal agreement NOT to cause any disturbance to the sole source of drinking water for the southern part of the county and the Florida Keys in its entirety.
Why did FPL avoid disclosing any discussion of its cooling water plan for the new nukes in 2007? Because it could. Why did it push through its new proposed, highly speculative "radial collector wells" for two new nuclear reactors and a water treatment plant in "high quality wetlands" in 2013: because it could.
Because county commissioners--- just like the boyz who approved the multi billion dollar Marlins Stadium fiasco -- only pretend to protect the public health, welfare and safety of taxpayers, residents and visitors.
In other words, the county commissioners decided "we'll cross that bridge (cooling water) when we get there" even though you have to cross the bridge to get there.
Link to video -- this is not Mr. Grosso's full presentation.
Last week, Richard Grosso, an esteemed professor at Nova University Law School, (seen in the revealing video above) assisted local environmental groups in presenting testimony at the recent county commission hearing on FPL's plan to build $30 billion in new nuclear reactors at its Turkey Point facility.
Mr. Grosso pointedly did not go back over the 2007 history, which otherwise might have confused the literal-minded commission. Mr. Grosso might have reminded the county commissioner that FPL -- far from being the good corporate citizen as one county commissioner (Pepe Diaz) pointed out -- has violated the agreement made to allow its existing nuclear reactors to continue operating, but that would have assumed the county commission has any memory of its past mistakes. But the county commission doesn't have any memory. Every day is a new day and every attempt to box out the special interests like FPL who dominate local government is an occasion for stiff reprimand behind the scenes.
If you only have a few minutes: start at minute 13:30 of the youtube video clip above of last week's meeting. (If you watch the entire clip, you will get a sense why environmentalists were upset; first for being the chance to air their complaints in a December hearing that was unceremoniously cut short when the commission lost its quorum, after FPL had testified. And then, last week, after a session that lasted most of the day, when it was clear the vote had been cooked.)
Mr. Grosso's questions expose the primary purpose of county staff: to hide behind and inside wriggle-room in legal language "protecting" the Everglades from decisions by local government. Everything is conditional. Nothing is fixed ... everything is subject to conditions so that at any time, a manager on a career track with a hefty pension can squirt out of making commitments to intent or with language that defies the narrow constraints of his or her job.
Mr. Grosso tries to get county staff to admit that the FPL plan cannot ensure existing protections for the environment. He doesn't get very far.
Highlights of video:
Lee Hefty at 5:34 min. admits that in 2007, FPL did not
include "radial collector wells" in its application at the time for an
unusual use permit. FPL, in other words, was "hiding the bacon" and
everyone knew it, but the county commission in 2007 allowed the initial
permit to move forward. Each of the county staff similarly hide within
their narrow areas of expertise, refusing to be lured out to venture an
At min 7:45, Doug Yoder of Water and Sewer, offers that the county uses
nearly 300 million gallons per day of water and that the new FPL proposal
will use 90 million gallons per day, despite 7 potable wellfields within
10 miles of FPL facility that are highly vulnerable.
One of those wellfields, susceptible to salt water intrusion, is the sole
source of drinking water to the Florida Keys.
What is left out of Mr. Grosso's examination, however, is the fact that
FPL's EXISTING NUCLEAR REACTORS are responsible for salt water intrusion NOW AFFECTING the entire region.
Minute 10:50: Grosso notes that Lee Hefty/ department letters have raised
issues: "radial collectors wells" could suck water out of aquifer, not
salt water out of bay. Could significantly worsen salt water intrusion.
13:13, Grosso to Hefty: in your last letter to state, did you tell the
state that FPL hadn't provided adequate information.
14:09 Modeling effort by FPL "leaves some uncertainty", Lee Hefty. "We
are taking the lead of the South Florida Water Management District".
Grosso: "We haven't been able to fix salt water intrusion. ... there is
no plan ... " So this is how it goes, if FPL is allowed to build its
reactors and the "radical collector wells" under Biscayne National Park
(an indignity to national park resources that have never been allowed to
occur anywhere in the United States) and salt water intrusion occurs,
then the "model is to blame" even though the remedial action that could
be necessary -- putting more fresh water into the aquifer -- will be
negated by the influence of the radial collector wells.
Finally, our criticism of county staff has provoked some to respond in their defense. It is true that county staff spent months going back and forth with FPL, and in meetings with the South Florida Water Management District. But still, FPL managed to get a plan approved -- especially in the case of the "radial collector wells" -- that has a high likelihood of ending up, if built, with the same problem as the existing reactors' cooling components: that once damage is done, it is impossible to mitigate. One reaches this conclusion based on the assumption that if FPL could correct its existing violations, it would have done so long ago.
In other words, the absence of accountability is baked into this nuclear permitting process at the local level. One of the most interesting facts to emerge at last week's hearing: nuclear cooling units can suffer severe "scaling" from minerals in the cooling water source, much like your coffee machine at home, and that this scaling can occur almost instantly. I believe the time quoted by an FPL expert was "in 30 to 60 minutes". This is, by the way, apparently the key fact regarding location of the water treatment plant along side the new nuclear reactors in "high quality wetlands". By this report, one further surmises that the "radial collector wells" are not just a back-up water supply, but a supply that will be tapped for its rated 90 million gallons per day capacity.
For the hearing that took place last week, click here: - watch the entire 4 hours and 40 minutes.