Florida Light & Power's $8B reactors projected to bring 3,000 construction jobs
By Lou Ortiz
Despite environmental concerns, a Miami-Dade County panel has approved Florida Power & Light's plan to build two new reactors at its Turkey Point plant — a project that would cost more than $8 billion to build and create more than 3,000 construction jobs.
If completed, the 12-year project would generate $135 million a year in property taxes and hundreds of permanent high-wage jobs, besides serving the growing energy needs of 36 counties in the state, said Mayco Villafana, a spokesman for FPL.
"That's a huge economic commitment on their part and tremendous opportunity for the residents in our community," said County Commissioner Dennis C. Moss, who represents District 9 where the plant is located.
"But that is not my primary concern," he said. "They need to take care of the environmental concerns."
Mr. Moss said he wants to make sure the utility resolves issues regarding water, mangroves, wetlands and animal habitats that may be harmed as a result of the project.
"I'll be reviewing the plan with county staff," he said. If FPL addresses the concerns, "I would be supportive of moving forward."
The Development Impact Community, a seven-member panel comprised of county staff, is recommending approval of the project. The county commission is expected to take up the project's zoning issues on Dec. 20.
The project must also get state and federal approvals.
But environmental groups say they fear harm to mangroves, wetlands, native birds and animals — such as the Florida panther, crocodiles and woodstorks — and question where FPL would get the 30 million to 90 million gallons of water the plant would need daily to operate, among other things.
County staff tied numerous conditions to its approval, which are intended to address the issues, including not allowing FPL to draw water from the Biscayne Aquifer, requiring a wastewater discharge plan, and how the company will go about preserving wildlife habitats. But some remain skeptical.
"It's a terrible fit to try to put the nuclear reactors on that site," said Mark Oncavage, chairman of conservation for the Sierra Club Miami Group.
"FPL doesn't say where the water is coming from," he said. Afterwards, "you're going to put contaminated water someplace. This is going to be some nasty stuff."
Where FPL will get the water and what technology the company will use to treat wastewater has not been decided because the power company must still complete studies on the issues, Mr. Villafana said.
"We have reached out to environmental groups, and we will continue to do so, to hear them and to answer their concerns," he said.
FPL said the company needs the new plant because 85,000 new customers are being added yearly to its list of 4.3 million, and consumption has increased 30% over the past 20 years among its current customers.
The last nuclear plant to be built in the US was the Watt's Bar reactor near Spring City, TN., which opened in May 1996 and is operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority.
There are 104 commercial nuclear plants in 31 states licensed by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, according to federal statistics.
If the plant is built, FPL customers would help defray the costs through increased electric rates.
Mr. Villafana said the company would go before the state's Public Service Commission and the "incurred costs will be reviewed on a yearly basis."
"Every facet of this project will be evaluated on a yearly basis," Mr. Villafana said, "and all constituents will be able to ask questions and receive assurances regarding the project."