FPL takes St. Lucie nuclear unit offline

Juno Beach-based Florida Power & Light Co. took one of two St. Lucie nuclear units out of service Monday as about 950 contractors descended on the scene.

The shutdown for St. Lucie Unit 2 on Hutchinson Island was not announced in advance and the expected length of the outage was not disclosed, though FPL spokesman Peter Robbins said each nuclear unit is shut down for maintenance and refueling every 18 months.

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Such occasions can provide an economic mini-boom for local hotels, restaurants and other businesses.

“It definitely gives us a little pop,” said Suzanne Quitt, general manager of Archie’s Seabreeze Restaurant in Fort Pierce.

The restaurant, in business since 1947, normally opens at 10:30 a.m. but quickly made plans for a 7 a.m. breakfast shift, largely to serve contractors ending overnight shifts, Quitt said.

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The precise timing of maintenance outages is often not disclosed by utilities in advance so as reduce the impact on the market costs of replacing the power temporarily lost, often for about a month at a time.

“We don’t discuss the duration of outages for competitive reasons,” Robbins said. “We account for this decrease in St. Lucie output and take steps to ensure we have the ability to meet customer demand.”

St. Lucie Unit 2 provides about 1,000 megawatts of power.

It formally went offline at about 12 a.m. Monday, Robbins said.

FPL began operation at its St. Lucie Unit 1 in 1976 and Unit 2 followed in 1983. FPL also has two nuclear units at its Turkey Point plant south of Miami.

FPL shut down the St. Lucie plant in 2016 because of Hurricane Matthew, but not in 2017 for Hurricane Irma.

The plant is on Hutchinson Island, about eight miles southeast of Fort Pierce.

FPL officials say about three-fourths of the St. Lucie Plant property remains in its “natural state” of mangroves, beaches and swamps.

About 180 species of birds and animals inhabit the property, including 36 that are endangered or threatened, according to the utility.

More than 200,000 people lived within 10 miles of the plant by 2010, studies showed.

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