Expanded nuclear plant almost set to go
By Scott Blake
Florida Power & Light Co.'s upgrades at its Turkey Point nuclear power plant — among the most extensive in US history — are on track for the plant to start producing extra power within a couple of months, company officials said.
When completed, renovations at the plant — about 25 miles south of Miami — will make it more efficient and capable of generating 15% more electricity, or the equivalent to powering about 271,000 homes.
Turkey Point has two nuclear reactors, called units 3 and 4. Improvements to Unit 3 are finished and work on Unit 4 is to begin in November, the company said this week.
FPL also is upgrading its St. Lucie nuclear power plant near Fort Pierce. Current cost estimates for the combined projects range from $2.95 billion to $3.15 billion.
The company said its ratepayers eventually will be beneficiaries of the makeovers.
The projects "enhance generation reliability and present long-term savings for our customers, while helping us provide our customers with the lowest typical electric bills in the state," FPL said in a statement to Miami Today.
The Turkey Point project alone has been one of the largest hiring efforts in the state, employing about 5,000 temporary workers, many in high-paying jobs. The workers are upgrading nearly every piece of equipment, including transformers, turbines, valves, pipes and generators.
"In comparison to other [nuclear plant renovations] which have taken place since 1977, Turkey Point's ranks as the second-largest ever in relation to the resulting megawatt output," FPL said.
"However, with regard to scope, Turkey Point's… project is the largest," the company added. "Our scope is so extensive, our staff will have worked 15 million man-hours by the time [upgrades] on both units are completed."
FPL, Florida's largest utility company, is testing the new systems installed for Unit 3 to ensure they operate safely, and plans to start increasing the power output from the reactor this fall. "As a matter of policy," the company added, "we don't comment on when we expect to return the unit back to full power."
FPL plans to increase the output of Unit 4 next year after that work is completed.
Thousands of parts and equipment were purchased from vendors, including General Electric and Siemens Energy, as well as smaller local businesses.
Large equipment, including a spare transformer weighing half a million pounds, was delivered by barge in July after traveling more than 7,000 miles from Europe.
FPL had been preparing for the project for about five years.
"We have experienced challenges similar to those of any other large construction project," the company said. "As a result of careful planning, our safety and security staff were fully ready to meet the demands associated with the project."
FPL said upgrades to its nuclear plants will allow it to be less reliant on fossil fuels.
"The expected outcome of greater system reliability and diversification of fuel mix with an energy source that emits no greenhouse gases and provides significant fossil fuel cost savings for our customers makes it all worthwhile."
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