Florida's largest power utility company said it remains confident it can keep its aging nuclear reactors along the shore of Biscayne Bay operating safely despite new studies that project sea levels in Florida to rise between 5 and 6.75 feet by 2100, the Miami Herald reports.
Florida Power & Light Co. is seeking federal approval to extend the operating license of its Turkey Point nuclear plant for another 20 years, and presented a 2013 independent study it commissioned on sea rise to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the reactors.
But environmental groups, officials with Miami-Dade County and some residents expressed their concerns with the outdated study this week when the NRC held its first hearing on the request.
"You can't re-license something if it's not operating as it was licensed," said Laura Reynolds, an environmental consultant involved in the issue.
FPL's nuclear cooling canals have become increasingly salty and have leaked underground, threatening drinking water well fields near its Turkey Point plant. The company is working to fix the issue.
"If they can't require conditions to fix the cooling canal system, they need to tell us the process to fix them," she added. "We all know after a decade of looking at this that those cooling canals are broken. They are not working."
Redland resident Pat Milone told the Herald she didn't feel as though FPL was "putting our welfare above their investors. This is why Erin Brockovich is still in business."
If the NRC grants the renewal for the units to operate through 2052 and 2053, it could make FPL one of the first power companies to operate a reactor for 80 years.
The study presented by the FPL called for just three-quarters of a foot in sea-level rise, compared to studies released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that showed projections of between 5 feet and 6.75 feet.
"We're confident that through that study we can operate safely," FPL spokeswoman Bianca Cruz told the Herald. "However, if sea rise grows more rapidly than everyone expects, this is going to be a challenge for everybody, not just the canals or Turkey Point or FPL. We're all going to have to readjust and do the right thing, and so if that's something we have to do, we'll do it."
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