Friday, November 30, 2012

The County, FPL, Sea Level Rise, and Nuclear: insane by any measure, except the wealth effect to FPL executives ... by gimleteye

On global warming, the United States has played out the schizophrenia card -- that is to say, living with the illness of denial -- to this historic moment. The moment is actually several moments, Eye On Miami can confidently connect for readers.

It happened last night, on NBC Nightly News, with a report on newly published scientific evidence about recent polar ice melt. Brian Williams, the network anchor, supports increased focus on global warming; often referring to the extreme weather events that increasingly appear on the news as "the new normal". But there was a different tone in his voice, last night, when he reported new science that ice melt in Greenland and Antarctica is occurring at a rate far more rapid than conservative science estimates of only a few years ago. "The pace has tripled from the 1990's."

It happened last weekend, when a normal high tide and normal seasonal weather-- not associated with Sandy or extraordinarily lunar cycles -- did major damage to Fort Lauderdale beaches, already the beneficiary of decades of "renourishment" costing millions. In a Miami Herald report this morning, Fort Lauderdale raced to put up 2500 feet of concrete barriers to hold back the sea.

And it happened a few days ago, when the Florida Public Service Commission approved Florida Power and Light's request for $151 million from ratepayers to recover the costs for construction of two new nuclear reactors in Homestead at Turkey Point, an area first to be impacted by sea level rise in a region whose entire economy is threatened and will, within the proposed service lifetime of the new reactors, face at least three to five feet of sea level rise: enough to break South Florida's back.

Of course, if you are middle aged today, your backs aren't likely to be broken. They could, because with climate change all bets are off.

It's precisely the "all bets are off" scenario coupled with investments by the fossil fuel industry in radical right-wing media and marketing -- , that describes the political antics that will occur on December 13th, when the Miami Dade County Commission meets to consider the plan by FPL to reuse 90 million gallons per day of treated wastewater, requiring an enormous collateral investment by Miami-Dade County, in order to cool the new nuclear reactors. (County Commission Chair Rebecca Sosa's best buddy US Senator Marco Rubio refuses to even meet with climate change scientists, along the lines of his recent interview, in which he refused to speculate on the age of the earth, calling the question a "dispute among theologians." "I'm not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that's a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States." A character modeled on Rubio would have made a great addition to "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest".)

Adding to the insanity: last August, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission unanimously approved a moratorium on licenses for all new nuclear plants and renewal of existing licenses until Congress deals with the spent fuel rod problem.

And you want to hear what is more insane? I support nuclear power! providing waste is adequately stored for the tens of thousands of years it will need to be kept away from all forms of life. Is the uncertainty of spent rod storage worth risk? To maintain our industrial society, yes. I support nuclear power in locations that are not immediately threatened by sea level rise. Is it worth the risk to build new nuclear, or support existing nuclear, in the impact zone of sea level rise. No.

On that count, the nation's utilities have an enormous problem with nuclear: power plants are sited in coastal areas because of nearby sources of water are needed to cool the operations. FPL assures that the new nuclear plants will be built on enormous pads lifted twenty feet above the surrounding Biscayne Bay.

But what FPL, and its very intelligent, bright, smart and capable executives and staff will simply not acknowledge, is that protecting the rate base from sea level rise -- ie. you and me -- is not in their plans. Their plans are to make as much money as they can, delivering one of the necessities of life: electricity.

The cost of decommissioning the existing two nuclear reactors, which will be required by sea level rise affecting their rate base, is not in their plans. The cost of dismantling the two new nuclear reactors, which could be in process of construction when the real impacts of sea level rise are bound to arrive, are not in their plans.

Albert Slap, general counsel for Friends of the Everglades, points to the New York Times report, only yesterday!, to the massive destruction of New York's wastewater handling system by superstorm Sandy, "a sign of an environmental and public health disaster that officials say will be one of the most enduring and expensive effects" of the storm and cost years and billions of dollars to fix.

The cost of the new sewage treatment plant the County is being asked to fund for new nuclear reactors at Turkey Point, according to Slap, is $8 billion. I'm guessing this $8 billion does not factor in, hardening the system so that no aspect of the pipes and pumps are vulnerable to damage from storms or salt water. I'm guessing this $8 billion does not factor what happens in the case of a rate base crippled by sea level rise.

How many billions will visitors and taxpayers be funding to retire the debt for the Miami Marlin's Stadium, $3 billion? The Performing Arsht Center? $1 billion? The sewage system repairs necessary to fix the IMMEDIATE NEEDS OF THE EXISTING SEWAGE SYSTEM, now before a federal court? $3 billion? And what about our parks and our roads and our schools?

You see where I'm heading with this. And you see where we are heading, with the NBC Nightly News report. The County Commission on December 13 has to put on the brakes, notwithstanding its cozy relationship with lobbyists and power brokers. Don't take it from a mere blogger, watch the report.


Anonymous said...

Put more sand on beaches. That's the answer.

Bob said...

I think we should at least keep running existing nukes that are demonstrated to be relatively safe until coal is replaced. I don't think we should be building new nukes until the spent fuel issue is resolved.
Hundreds of thousands of people across the globe die every year from respiratory illness due to coal burning. And that number could become millions due to starvation if we don't stabilize the climate.

Anonymous said...

A big reason we are losing beach shoreline at such a high rate is not rising sea levels but the destruction of natural beach protection systems by the Corps of Engineers and it resistence to good, alternative beach restoration methods based on the findings of coastal geologists.

The Corps of Engineers is seen as the protector of wetlands and shoreline when it has, in reality, become one of the biggest enemies.

Anonymous said...

This seems to intersect with the Christian Family Coalition: what is the organization's position on climate change? WWJD?