Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Biscayne Bay being contaminated by FPL Turkey Point ... by gimleteye

The media "hook" on the recent FPL Turkey Point hearing by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is that a joint Miami-Dade and FPL effort is turning up elevated readings of phosphorous and ammonia at the bottom of nearby dredged canals in the bay. This is likely evidence of FPL's sewage -- the supersaline cooling water used for its two nuclear reactor units -- migrating through a porous aquifer into the waters of a national park.

It is "likely" because FPL's cooling canal system has been failing for decades, unreported by the media but obvious to anyone involved in the difficulties of navigating the byzantine relationships between an extraordinarily powerful corporation and the many government agencies responsible to protect the public interest; from county, state to federal authority.

Of the incongruities in the recent NRC hearing in Homestead -- attended by not a single elected official -- was the admission by FPL's senior executive, Steve Scroggs, that what was initially forecast as a "short duration" elevated temperature/ climate event, causing the cooling canal temperatures to spike in 2013 and 2014, is no longer estimated to be "short duration". In other words, hotter weather as a result of global warming is pushing the canal temperatures significantly higher than FPL estimated. What is incongruent? At the same time NRC staff is defending FPL's "no environmental impacts" from raising its canal temperature to 104 degrees -- the highest temperature permitted in coolant water at any nuclear facility in the United States -- the corporation is seeking permits for two new nuclear reactors that peg sea level rise, the certain consequence of global warming, at less than 1 foot by the end of the century when the best available science predicts at least 4 - 6 feet of sea level rise and very likely more.

Think about it: the climate is changing faster than the wheels of government in assessing performance metrics of the most complex and complicated form of energy generation known to mankind: nuclear energy. For decades, FPL has deployed a small portion of its massive financial resources to keep government at bay and citizens in the dark. Readers will wonder: what does this mean to me? The short answer is that half of the permitted water withdrawals to Miami-Dade County by the state of Florida -- that is to say, OUR WATER -- is being allocated to FPL Turkey Point cooling needs. This is a very recent development. The urgencies are real.

Thanks are due to the small grass roots group, Citizens Allied for Safe Energy, and the dedication of a few activists -- Barry White, Michael Hatcher, and the mayor of South Miami Philip Stoddard. That should be a media hook, too.

Biscayne Bay being contaminated by Turkey Point nuke plant canals
8:53 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016 | Filed in: Business

HOMESTEAD — Phosphorus and ammonia levels shot up dramatically in the aquifer under Biscayne Bay after Florida Power & Light Co. began pumping as much as 100 million gallons a day of freshwater to cool its Turkey Point nuclear reactors.

The revelation in a hearing Monday in Homestead near the Turkey Point site held potential implication for the 3 million people in South Florida who get their drinking water from the Biscayne Aquifer. They stretch from the residents in Boca Raton in the north down to Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

Juno Beach-based FPL began significant pumping from the nearby L-31E Canal starting in August, and by September, both phosphorus and ammonia levels were several times the norm, new data shows. The South Florida Water Management District granted FPL permission to use the water to decrease the temperature in the plant’s cooling canal system.

FPL Senior Director Steve Scroggs said the algae bloom and hypersalinity of the cooling system were largely driven by hot weather, including a severe drought in 2014 and other recent years. The company felt it was prudent to ask the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to allow it to raise the canal waters’ temperature limit to 104 from 100. Drawing water from the Biscayne Aquifer keeps temperatures in check.

Hearings set on impact from salinity levels in FPL nuke cooling canals photo
A worker walks past the Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant, which is owned by Juno Beach-based Florida Power & Light Co. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
“We’ve exerted quite a bit of managerial control,” Scroggs said. “It is a complex ecosystem subject to multiple factors.”

With climate changes that have occurred and considering others that might lie ahead, it’s also preserving a temperature margin, he said.

FPL operates nuclear units 3 and 4 at the plant south of Miami overlooking Biscayne Bay. Environmentalists, residents and National Park Service officials have been concerned about the hot and increasingly salty canals and an underground saltwater plume that extends for miles from the facility.

Concerns that the higher salinity was affecting nesting crocodiles in the canals as well as marine life in Biscayne Bay helped spark the initial questions that led to Monday’s hearing, which eventually unearthed the ammonia and phosphorus disclosures.

Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Administrative Judges Michael Gibson, Michael Kennedy and William Sager largely focused on asking NRC staff how they arrived at the conclusion that increasing the allowable temperature would not have a significant environmental impact.

The panel is expected to make a ruling in about 90 days. The hearing continues at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Hampton Inn & Suites at 2855 N.E. Ninth Street in Homestead.

Philip Stoddard, a Florida International University biology professor and mayor of South Miami, testified Monday on behalf of Citizens Allied for Safe Energy. The new data was obtained from the Miami-Dade County Department of Environmental Resources Management, which required FPL to provide it.

The ammonia and phosphorus are identified as having seeped into the aquifer from the cooling canals because low levels of tritium, a by-product of nuclear energy, also were found.

Stoddard said the DERM data from July through November 2015 is the most convincing evidence to date that water is migrating from the unlined, earthen cooling canals into Biscayne Bay.

In the summer of 2014 after the temperature in FPL’s 168-mile cooling canal system exceeded the the 100-degree limit. The alternative to a higher limit would have been shutting down the reactors if the water became too hot, and NRC staff said it had concerns about affecting the grid’s reliability if that happened.

CASE contends the NRC staff did not adequately address the potential impact of the increased temperature and salinity in the cooling system on saltwater intrusion. The effects of saltwater migrating out of the system and the withdrawal of freshwater from surrounding aquifers to mitigate conditions need further scrutiny, CASE said.

CASE President Barry White said that SFWMD and DERM officials would not allow their employees to be questioned about Turkey Point for the hearing.

The latest data shows no increase in salinity levels in the Biscayne Aquifer, but over the past decade, the cooling canals have had salinity levels as high as 90 parts per thousand and hovered mostly in the 60 parts per thousand range.

Stoddard said that the number of American crocodile nests and hatchlings in Turkey Point’s canals, touted by FPL as an ideal habitat for the reptiles, has declined.

“That’s a pretty good indication that something is amiss,” Stoddard said. “We are on the edge of really understanding what is going on here.”

FPL made the request for the 104-degree limit following a 2013 expansion of the reactors’ output.

FPL and NRC officials said Monday they concluded that the canals would rise the temperature limits for only a short duration of a few hours or few days.

Kennedy, one of the three judges on the panel, said he has concerns that the small difference could have a long-term impact. NRC staff said they looked at what is likely to happen, not at a worse-case scenario.

The plant is the nation’s only power plant between two national parks — Biscayne National Park and Everglades National Park. National park and Department of Interior officials were on hand to monitor Monday’s hearing.


The 4,000-square mile Biscayne aquifer is the only source of drinking water for about 3 million people in South Florida, including the residents of Boca Raton, and southeastern Palm Beach County, and all of Broward and Miami-Dade Counties. The Florida Keys also are supplied primarily by water from the Biscayne aquifer that is transported from the mainland by pipeline.

Because the Biscayne aquifer is highly permeable and lies at shallow depths everywhere, it is readily susceptible to contamination.

What The Post reported

FPL’s Turkey Point nuclear power plant has long been lauded as a habitat for the American crocodile, and other wildlife. But a severe drop in the number of nests and hatchlings in the 168-mile network of cooling canals sparked concerns over the salinity levels in the canals.


Anonymous said...

Is there any turkey left at Turkey Point?

Anonymous said...

BRAVO...Barry White and Dr. Phil Stoddard!!

Seldom have so few accomplished so much against such a Cacaglomeration that is FPL.

Anonymous said...

A recent peer reviewed article identified a Thyroid cancer cluster for the counties Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade. These three counties share one thing; the Biscayne Aquifer. Is this a coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not!

Tom KG4CYX said...

Yeech. I'm guessing the phosphorus and ammonia are due to the algae blooming and rotting in the hot canals? That suggests a long term decomposition of some biomass.

I am kind of confused as to why the canal system was used in the first place. The Port St. Lucie plant just circulates sea water. Was the issue that the bay water was just too shallow to have the mass to take and dissipate the heat?