This is an issue that has been developing for the last ten days or so: the water in the Ultimate Heat Sink (UHS,) the maze of canals that allow the Turkey Point nuclear power plant dispose of waste heat from the plant’s reactors, has been approaching the upper limit of allowable temperature under the facility’s license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC.)
The temperature limit was established to protect fish and wildlife, including the threatened American crocodile. When the temperature in the Ultimate Heat Sink exceeds 100 degrees Fahrenheit, Turkey Point is supposed to begin a Limiting Condition of Operating (LCO,) reducing the plant’s operating power.
The NRC doesn’t seem to be very interested in actually enforcing regulations, however. According to an Event Report appearing today on the NRC’s Event Notification Report page:
At 1454 EDT on 20 July 2014, Turkey Point Units 3 and 4 entered the Action for Technical Specification (TS) 3.7.4, Ultimate Heat Sink (UHS). The action was entered because UHS temperature exceeded the limit of 100 degrees F due to a natural event.
The NRC seemed to think that the LCO was excessive:
At 1800 EDT the NRC verbally approved a natural event Notice of Enforcement Discretion (NOED) which allows the ultimate heat sink temperature to exceed 100 degrees F up to 103 degrees F. Unit power levels have been maintained at Unit 3 100% and Unit 4 95%.
The NRC took this discretionary action in spite of having received this Event Report from Turkey Point on Friday:
On July 24, 2014 at 16:04 [EDT], the control room was notified of a deceased American Crocodile inside the intake well. Based on visual evidence of no physical injury or trauma, the crocodile’s death was not caused by plant operations. The Federal Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) were notified.
That report makes no mention of water temperature being ruled out as the cause of death of the crocodile.