Concerns For Biscayne and Everglades National Parks Voiced Over Proposed Nuclear Plant Expansion

Should the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approve a $40 million expansion of the Turkey Point nuclear plant near Biscayne National Park?

Managing national parks is not easy. Managing development beyond the parks' borders is even tougher, as we've seen in recent stories about Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, Everglades National Park, and many, many other parks.

When you add to the mix the debate over how the United States can become energy independent, something many think requires more nuclear power, the debate over development gets even thornier.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission the other day held a hearing into a proposed expansion of the Turkey Point nuclear plant 25 miles south of Miami and near Biscayne National Park. Among those who spoke out against the expansion were representatives from the National Parks Conservation Association, Citizens Allied for Safe Energy, and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Concerns those groups voiced over the proposal put forth by Florida Power and Light ranged from deficiencies with evacuation plans in the case of a disaster to whether the plant's heightened water needs -- it's been said that 80 million gallons or more of water a day would be needed for the plant -- would adversely impact the Everglades' restoration and levy ecological impacts on Biscayne Bay.

Those views were expressed Friday to the regulatory commission's Atomic Safety Licensing Board, which must determine whether enough legitimate concerns exist to justify an evidentiary hearing into the proposed expansion. A decision is expected in January.

“The surrounding communities are at great risk from FPL’s proposal including the Miami area and the Florida Keys. Turkey Point has already harmed this area in terms of public health, the environment and our economy. Building more reactors does nothing but make an already unacceptable situation worse,” South Miami Mayor Phillip Stoddard, a director with Citizens Allied for Safe Energy, told reporters before the hearing.

“Of utmost concern to me is that there are serious deficiencies with the current evacuation plan should there be an accident," he continued. "Families, children, our friends and neighbors could be stuck in a snarl of traffic as they are exposed to radiation. Profit is being put ahead of people. This is unjust and cannot be tolerated any further.”

Those who oppose the expansion also question Florida Power and Light's plans to use radial collector wells beneath Biscayne Bay, the proposed use of millions of gallons of reclaimed water per day that would otherwise be used for Everglades restoration, the loss of several hundred acres of wetlands to accommodate miles of new transmission lines, and lack of planning for future potential sea-level rise that would adversely impact the operations of the facility.

“We wouldn’t stand for a nuclear power plant to be built next to the Statue of Liberty or the Lincoln Memorial; both are national park units, so why would we allow a nuclear power plant to double its size next to Biscayne National Park?” Kahlil Kettering, NPCA's Biscayne restoration program analyst, said at the press conference.

“Biscayne is the largest marine national park in the country and is a treasure for all Americans that should be protected for our children and grandchildren to enjoy. Turkey Point’s nuclear operations have negatively impacted Biscayne Bay’s water salinity and the habitat that is vital for the ecological productivity of the Bay and nuclear expansion is in direct conflict with the goals of Everglades Restoration and the health of our national parks.”

Another concern the hearing board needs to consider are the potential dangers associated with predicted sea-level rise.

“FPL and the (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) have failed to address how Turkey Point will deal with climate change and sea-level rise,” said Captain Dan Kipnis, a Miami resident. “Just a few more inches of ocean height will affect Turkey Point, damage coastal communities and decrease our fresh water supplies. This is an unbelievably bad idea and bad location to build more nuclear reactors.”

What's the solution? Can we meet our energy goals AND protect our natural resources? Those who spoke against the proposed $40 million expansion plan voiced their belief that "future energy demand should instead be met by aggressive energy efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy measures. Such methods pose less risk to local communities, water resources and the sensitive South Florida environment, while playing an important role in reducing global warming pollution."

“Safe, affordable energy that provides good jobs while protecting the environment such as energy efficiency and conservation, wind, solar and bioenergy is a much wiser investment that won’t harm South Florida communities in terms of their pocketbooks and their health and safety,” said Sara Barczak, high risk energy choices program director with Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Other groups opposed to the expansion include Tropical Audubon Society, 1Sky Florida, Save it Now, Glades!, Sierra Club Miami Group, and the South Florida Wildlands Association.