As I told you earlier this summer, Florida’s Turkey Point nuclear power plant has a water problem. Specifically, the water in the canals that serve as the station’s Ultimate Heat Sink (UHS) was hotter than the temperature allowed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC.) Hot water from plant operations is dumped into 168 miles of canals and allowed to cool before it is eventually discharged to Biscayne Bay.
The NRC had originally required that the temperature of the water in the canals not exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. In mid-summer, Turkey Point petitioned the NRC for an increase in the allowable temperature in the canals. In Early August, the NRC granted an increase to 104 degrees.
Now, Turkey Point has asked for a dramatic increase in the amount of water it is allowed to pump from the Floridan aquifer and put into the Ultimate Heat Sink canals. As the Miami Herald reported today:
Florida Power & Light needs millions more gallons of freshwater to manage cooling canals that keep two nuclear reactors at Turkey Point from overheating, company officials said in an emergency request to the South Florida Water Management District.
Yesterday, the Water Management District approved a huge increase in the amount of water Turkey Point is allowed to pump:
To cool the canals, the Water Management District on Thursday authorized pumping up to 100 million gallons of water a day from a nearby canal system, but only if it doesn’t take too much water stored for Everglades restoration. The canals carry freshwater to Biscayne Bay and tamp down salinity, which can fuel algae blooms and harm marine life.
The 100 million gallons would be in addition to 14 million gallons a day from the Floridan aquifer that water managers approved in June, after high temperatures threatened to shut down the reactors.
The new pumping allotments have raised environmental concern, which is nothing new for Turkey Point:
With the plant sitting between two national parks, concerns over damage have dogged Turkey Point since the 1970s when environmentalists sued to keep FPL from dumping billions of gallons of hot water into Biscayne Bay. Today, the canals cool the water by circulating it through a radiator-like loop without escaping into the bay. But environmentalists worry that the increasingly heavy salty water in the canals is sinking deeper, pushing an underground saltwater plume further inland. Environmentalists have also worried that a $3 billion expansion of the plant to generate 15 percent more power has driven up canal temperatures.
And there are concerns that the new allotments may be only the beginning:
“The real question is once they have permission to draw off the surplus water… then they can start incrementally petitioning for more water,” said South Miami Mayor Phil Stoddard, a Florida International University biologist. “How far can they push this?”