FPL wants to keep operating Turkey Point reactors through 2052

3:52 p.m Friday, Feb. 9, 2018 Business
Florida Power & Light has begun a project aimed at cleaning up groundwater contamination stemming from its Turkey Point nuclear plant’s cooling canals. Provided.

Florida Power & Light Co. is seeking federal approval to extend the operating license of its Turkey Point nuclear plant for another 20 years.

If the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission grants the renewal for Turkey Point’s two existing reactors, known as units 3 and 4, FPL could be among the first power companies to operate a reactor for 80 years.

The move comes as the company is set to go to trial in early 2019 over a lawsuit brought by conservation groups asserting that it violated the Clean Water Act due to contaminated water discharges at its Turkey Point plant on Biscayne Bay south of Miami.

The two reactors at the plant are cooled by a 2 mile-by-5 mile unlined canal system that is polluting the Biscayne Aquifer as well as the surface waters of Biscayne Bay. The Biscayne Aquifer supplies drinking water to more than 3 million South Floridians, including customers of Palm Beach County Water Utilities.

READ MORE ABOUT THE LAWSUIT OVER TURKEY POINT’S COOLING CANALS

On average, about 600,000 pounds of salt seep from the canals into the groundwater every day, and a too-salty plume has migrated underground at least 4 miles west.

Juno Beach-based FPL is in the midst of a 10-year $200 million-plus cleanup of the groundwater contamination. FPL customers are paying for the fix.

NRC spokesman Roger Hannah said Friday that FPL filed the renewal extension application, but NRC staff has not completed its acceptance review. When that occurs, the application will be available for public viewing.

FPL began operating nuclear units 3 and 4 in 1972 and 1973. The reactors’ initial 40-year licenses were extended for another 20 years in 2002.

The approval process is expected to take two years. If granted, the renewal would allow the units to operate through 2052 and 2053. FPL has already invested more than $1 billion to modernize the nuclear units.

FPL spokeswoman Bianca Cruz said Friday that the license renewals will save customers money by avoiding the need for a new natural-gas fired plant in Miami-Dade County. A new plant in that region would cost an estimated $2.8 billion, she said.

Two other power companies have indicated they also plan to file for their second 20-year nuclear plant extensions — Dominion Energy, for two plants in Virginia and Exelon Corp. for two units Pennsylvania.

This year FPL will start to upgrade the turbines on both nuclear units at Turkey Point, Cruz said. The turbines are more efficient and will result in a total increase of 40 megawatts.

Cruz said that within the next couple of months, the company anticipates receiving the operating license for two additional reactors at Turkey Point, units 6 and 7.

In another announcement Friday, FPL unveiled the first solar-plus-storage system in the U.S. at its Citrus Solar Energy in DeSoto County.

The system is believed to be the first in the country to fully integrate battery storage technology with a major solar power plant in a way that increases the plant’s overall energy output.

It features a 4,000-kilowatt-16,000-kilowatt-hour storage capacity comprised of multiple batteries integrated into the plant’s operations.

The technology has the potential to harness millions of kilowatt-hours of solar energy a year that would normally be lost and improve the predictability of the solar energy, which naturally fluctuates with the sun’s availability.