Doomed To Fail: The Nuclear-Dependent Energy Grid Crisis in Florida

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Doomed To Fail: The Nuclear-Dependent Energy Grid Crisis in Florida

Florida's nuclear-dependent energy grid is doomed to fail. One local activist is stepping up his effort to thwart the impending crisis. 

Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, the production and distribution of energy has been a source of financial, political and sociological contention.  With the scores of billions of dollars in play, the consumers, whether homeowner, municipality or institution, get lost in the shuffle with little control or influence over the process and the result. Florida is no exception.  In fact, it may be a historic shining example of the phenomenon. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC), all trump local government when it comes to the regulation of energy.  That concentration of power has become an almost impenetrable force.  Nationally and locally, non-profit corporations use public relations and legal means to try to give consumers a voice and a say, seldom with any measurable success. One Miami organization, Citizens Allied for Safe Energy, Inc. (CASE) has been waging the battle for over five years, a study in tenacity and job-like perseverance. Here is some of their story.  

Tell "Eye On Miami" readers a little about your background and how, when and why you became interested in FPL nuclear issues?

I came to Miami from St. Louis in 1969 to work in management for Eastern Airlines. I have degrees from Washington University in St. Louis (Bachelors, Business; Masters, Psychology) and Barry University (Masters, Counseling).  Beginning from 1974 to 1997, I was a travel agent and an agency owner/manager. I worked in mental health for fifteen years. After coming to Miami, it didn't take long to find the Sierra Club and their great outings programs. With them and some nice folks, I canoed many Florida rivers and streams, clammed in the Sebastian Inlet, and spent a long weekend in the Okefenokee Swamp. My wife and I discovered palms and gardening. I learned to appreciate the pastoral nature of south Dade; it ain't South Beach or Aventura. So, once you become one with the land, wetlands, The Redland, beaches and foliage of this beautiful area, you are insulted by those who act to exploit, destroy or deplete it. As I learned more about how energy production at Turkey Point is a threat to the land, is threatened by geological and climactic forces and is a danger to the people who live and work in the area, working to change that became important to me. 

What is CASE?

Citizens Allied for Safe Energy, Inc. (CASE) is an all volunteer Florida Not-For-Profit Corporation. Membership is open to all.  

When and why was it formed?

After I retired and had more time for civic concerns I learned about Stop FPL Now which was working toward the same goals described above for CASE. We met in September, 2009, changed to the present to name and incorporated. In December 2009, we held a town hall meeting to present many aspects of renewable energy to the public. A video of the meeting in on the CASE website . One result of that meeting was the then president of CASE, Dr. Philip Stoddard, a FIU biologist, was, about a week later, asked by some citizens of South Miami to run for Mayor; he is now in his third term and is Corporate Secretary of CASE. 

CASE is dedicated to preventing the licensure of FPL by the NRC for Turkey Point Nuclear Reactors 6 & 7, to the distributed (decentralized) production of renewable energy on our homes, businesses and institutions, to reduced dependence on the grid, to energy conservation at the point of use and to energy efficiency at the point of production.  CASE is also seeking funds to establish a Renewable Energy Institute to create a comprehensive national data base and out reach effort for all matters relating to the applied use of renewable energy. In 1883, Edison produced electricity at one point and sent it over wires; 131 year later we are still doing the same thing. Why? Miami-Dade County has no energy policy and no one assigned to think about it; is that by design?

Why petition the NRC and not the State of Florida.

While Florida must approve the site of new nuclear reactors and has some input on environmental concerns the operation of the nuclear reactors is under the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which is part of the Department Of Energy. On August 14, 2014, the NRC posted a notice in Federal Register stating that they had granted FPL permission to take certain remedial actions to address excessive temperatures and algae bloom in the cooling canals for Turkey Point Nuclear Reactors 3 & 4 and asked for members of the public to make comments regarding that approval within 60 days of that posting. 

Regarding the State of Florida, one might ask why we have allowed a few private corporations to become so powerful and to be the the only suppliers of energy.  Other states have much different models including competing companies and much greater use of renewables?   

Sometimes monopolies are necessary to achieve a goal.  It is time to re-evaluate this structure for our state. The result of this concentration of corporate power is undue influence over the Public Service Commission and corporate audacity and intransigence. A few years ago a stockholder at an FPL annual meeting asked the CEO what the company was doing to move toward renewable energy on our homes and businesses. His reply, "Right, and then we call sit around and sing Kumbaya." He was more correct than he realized since Kumbaya means "Come by here" addressed to My Lord.  They could certainly use a visit.

Can't we do better in Florida? We might have reasonable energy costs now, but for how long and at what cost to our environment and land

Many of our readers may not understand the "standing" issue before the NRC. Can just anyone get up and testify before the NRC or submit a petition?

Filing a petition before the NRC is a full legal procedure except, it is one of few parts of the Federal Government where anyone can file pro se, without an attorney. However, there are very strict guidelines for the filings which make it the same as a legal filing in any court of law. But, whoever files on behalf of a defined group of people must show that they really represent those people and has been authorized by them to do so. Several CASE members, all of whom are welcome to join, completed Declarations giving CASE permission to speak on their behalf on this matter in a court of law, and that gave CASE standing to speak on their behalf.

This is what the beginning of the filing looks like:

October  14,  2014




In the Matter                                             )
FLORIDA POWER AND LIGHT                      )                         
)          Docket Nos. 50-250
)                 and     50-251
)          NRC-2014-0176                                         
Florida Power & Light Company;                  )

Turkey Point Nuclear Generating                  )
Units 3 and 4                                              )

Citizens Allied for Safe Energy, Inc. Petition to Intervene and Request for a Hearing

This is a petition to intervene filed under 10 C.F.R. § 2.309 and in response to a notice published by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ("NRC" or "Commission") at  75 F.R. at 47689 on August 14, 2014.  Citizens Allied for Safe Energy, Inc. (CASE) hereby petitions to intervene on behalf of CASE members regarding the NRC issued amendments to Renewed Facility Operating   License Nos. DPR-31 and DPR-41, issued to Florida Power & Light  Company, for operation of the Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Units 3 and 4, located in Miami-Dade County, Florida. CASE also requests a hearing on the above captioned matter. As described below CASE has representational standing through its members to make this request. Most CASE members live and/or work within 10 to 15 miles of Turkey Point ...

How many times have you testified before the NRC and tell us about that experience: what is it like being a citizen testifying before the NRC?

I personally have filed many petitions and motions and responses to them in writing before the Atomic Safety Licensing Board (ASLB) on the NRC on behalf of CASE since 2010. Several are posted on our website. I have only testified in person once when the ASLB Administrative Law Judges held a hearing in Homestead in 2010 regarding the licensure by the NRC of Turkey Point 6 & 7 which is still in progress. CASE and other organizations had filed motions opposing different aspects of the proposed operation. I had prepared a seventeen page statement and was permitted to read it; it took an hour  and it was quite exhilarating to be able to read strong statements directly to the judges in front of FPL staff and attorneys. The FPL attorneys behind me, I am told, were quite busy researching my statements as I read them in defense of the Contentions which had been admitted. Eventually, over the next six months, as usually happens, the NRC dismissed all of our Contentions; environmental organizations seldom get anything to stick. But that's another story.

What are "contentions" and how could the NRC respond to the contentions you have raised?

A Contention is a formal statement of what you see as wrong or that should be addressed because, the petitioner believes, the NRC should require FPL should do something differently. It can either be a violation of one of the many regulations governing safe operation of a nuclear plant or it might be an environmental issue based on scientific research. 

CASE presented the following Contentions regarding the Cooling Canal System (CCS) at Turkey Point in the filing on Tuesday, October 14, 2014:





The entire filing was 22 pages and we will post it on the CASE website.

The nature of contentions has been explained above. Both FPL and the NRC staff will respond to CASE's Contentions challenging them on technical aspects of  6    the filing and  on the allegations CASE has made. Then CASE will respond to those comments. Then it is up to the Administrative Law Judges of the ASLB to admit none, all or part of any of the contentions for further consideration by the NRC Commissioners who are free to accept or reject the Contentions and act on them as they like.

Is the NRC an independent body or is it compromised by industry and the revolving door effect?

As stated above, the NRC is under the U.S. Department of Energy and is totally a federal agency. Many employees of the NRC do wind up working in the nuclear industry. Fukushima was not an accident. It was an actuarial event waiting to happen due to the unholy alliance of the regulators and the regulated; Turkey Point is not different. How can you place nuclear reactors in the path of known geological and climatological forces and not expect disaster?

Why is the mainstream media so silent on the issues you are raising?

We can only speculate. We do know that economics underlies everything and that FPL is the largest advertiser in the State.

Could Miami Dade government do more on these issues related to FPL? Why are commissioners so silent?

Miami-Dade County has no energy policy and no one assigned to think about it; is that by design?  Miami-Dade County staff is very aware of most of these issues; they are very professional. But then you have to factor in political will and motivation. Most elected officials have their own agendas. If they do not match the will of the people, they can be voted out, witness District 8. Also, many of the issues are very complex and subtle. Not all elected officials have the time to really understand the science and the ramifications of the measures before them. Also, FPL is one of the major funders of election campaigns and, in interesting and subtle ways, municipalities. They also invest a lot of money shaping the opinions of public officials and public policy. But that is another story.

What can ordinary people do, to participate if they are interested?

Most of us get our news in sound bites. You really have to dig a little to find out what is going on. That is why organizations like CASE, THE SIERRA CLUB, FLORIDA  AUDUBON, TROPICAL  AUDUBON and blogs, such as Eye On Miami and Political Cortadito, exist to try to bring more information, details and behind the scene insight and analysis to the public ... WLRN Public Radio, Dan Ricker's Watchdog Report and Michael Putney's This Week in South Florida do a good job of objective reporting. Apathy will do in this nation. Reader, you  be the one who follows the issues, goes to meetings and asks questions.

Do you think most people have given up hope?

Most people are living their lives day to day, trying to make ends meet and to fulfill what ever role life has cast them into. They have little time to really worry about how government is run and either don't give it much attention or, if they take a look at TV news or the paper, just shrug and say, "It's out of my control."  They might have hope that things will work better, that more money winds up where it should and that we read about fewer elected officials and citizens being charged with trying to gain the system; they have these hopes, but no illusion that they can influence them in any way. That is why those who do have the time and energy to figure out and challenge the system, activists, get involved and work for change. We expect little but are built so that we cannot stand buy; it is too painful to stay on the sidelines and just watch. Some say we are nuts; some use stronger words especially when we get under their skin. Nice. 

What is your hope for FPL Turkey Point?

This filing regarding the cooling canal problems is really a skirmish in CASE's battle to show that Turkey Point is not hospitable to the production of energy and that we should reduce dependence on the power line grid in favor of decentralized production of energy. CASE's hope for this petition is that the NRC and the Commissioners accept its concern that many incorrect and dangerous actions have been taken by FPL to solve the problems in the cooling canals and direct FPL to cease and desist from them and to retain outside scientists to find out what is really wrong since FPL does not seem to know how and they are seriously threatening our water supply and flora and fauna in the area. We also hope to put Turkey Point on the NRC Commissioners' radar as a problematical site now and in the future.

CASE's petition argument is that FPL blamed the problem of high temperatures and algae bloom in the cooling canals on the lack of rainfall in mid 2014. In addition, FPL was authorized beginning in 2013 to draw an extra 14 million gallons of water per day for several years (MGD) from the deep Florian aquifer and, for a time, up to 100 MGD. Further, they were authorized to put hydrogen peroxide and copper sulfate in the the canals to kill the algae. All of this was done on an exigent, basis, with FPL contending that taking the measures was urgent. They did not take the time for proper analysis and real time testing, instead just projected calculations, which might have presented the problems which the measures to be taken would create in the canals,  to the aquifer and the threat to the crocodiles and hatchling and juvenile sea life in the area; bad.

FPL denies that the uprate of Turkey Point Nuclear Reactors 3 & 4 in late 2012 and early 2013 are causing these problems. Using FPL data, CASE showed that not only was temperature increase a problem long before 2014, but the charts and graphs indicated that the temperature increase was related in time to the uprate, raising the operating temperature of the reactors, but alarming and record high levels of salinity, tritium and chloride were seen following the uprate. The stew in the canal now is seeping from the canals into the Biscayne aquifer endangering it with increased salinity when the aquifer is already experiencing  salt water intrusion due to a lack of fresh water. 

Sooner or later Turkey Point will be abandoned either for economic or physical reasons. We know that it is the Future Atlantis, definitely by the end of the century.  Sea level rise, storm surge, a Category 5 storm (which Turkey Point has never experienced), or the move to renewable energy will make it obsolete. Units 3 & 4 are over forty years old and were given twenty more, to about 2032; FPL will probably ask for another twenty years. We hope they can operate under water ... And Turkey Point 6 & 7 will never be built; at $24 Billion, that is $5300 for every one of FPL's 4.5 million homeowners. Very few new reactors are being built in the country.  Renewable energy is beginning to reduce profits for utilities around the nation and that will soon be the case in Florida. FPL refuses to change its business model, missing out on tens of billions in new business and keeping thousands from new jobs, while some power companies nationally only use renewable energy and many use a high percentage of it. The cost of solar in Florida is dropping like a stone; you can put 8KW on an average home for under $15,000; IKEA puts solar on its new stores right away and more big box stores are doing the same. So, either way, Turkey Point will be history; sooner rather than later. Fossil fuels are not clean and nuclear energy is not problem free as the NRC Federal Register posting on August 14, 2014 illustrates. Not one ounce of spent nuclear fuel has ever left Turkey Point.

If you read all of this, you are on your way to becoming part of the solution. Bless you.

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