A three-judge panel will decide if allowing FPL’s nuclear plant cooling canal water to exceed 100 degrees, potentially increasing salt levels in the canals and the aquifer, took the possible environmental impact into account.
A series of orgnaizations, including the Florida Wildlife Federation and the National Park Service, say they are alarmed by the skyrocketing salinity levels flowing from the canals to the Biscayne Bay and the Everglades. FPL says it’s not solely to blame for higher salinity levels in the canals, but is nonetheless working to lower salt levels.
The power plant’s looping network of unlined cooling canals at the plant bordering Biscayne Bay south of Miami have long been blamed for saltwater intrusion into the bay, the Floridan Aquifer and the nearby national parks.
The jump to a 104-degree maximum from 100 degrees as the upper limit for water temperatures was important because the canals had been as hot as 102 degrees that summer, and that meant the company would have to begin shutting down the reactors.
The evidentiary hearing in Homestead before the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board’s panel of three administrative law judges, who are employees of the NRC, will question witnesses called by FPL, the NRC and Citizens Allied for Safe Energy. The hearing is open to the public, said NRC spokesman Joey Ledford.
The ASLB is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s independent body charged with conducting adjudicatory hearings and deciding legal challenges to the agency’s licensing and enforcement actions. A ruling is expected in about 90 days.
The hotter the water in the cooling canals system, built in the early 1970s, the saltier it becomes. This is because higher temperatures increase water evaporation.
During the last two dry seasons, the South Florida Water Management District has allowed FPL to pump as much as 100 million gallons of water a day from the L-31E canal in hopes of keeping the cooling canals from being too hot or too salty. At times the cooling canals’ salinity levels have been as much as three times that of Biscayne Bay’s.
The water was pumped after Biscayne Bay received its share.
White said he is appalled by how much water FPL has been permitted to take for its cooling system.
“Freshwater is required to hold back saltwater intrusion and to nurture hatchling and juvenile sea life,” White said. “High salinity is killing off wildlife in the area.”
Groups such as the Tropical Audubon Society, the Florida Wildlife Federation and the National Park Service have been alarmed by the rise in the canals’ salinity levels, temperatures, algae blooms and conditions in recent years. There’s been a severe drop in the number of crocodile nests and hatchlings in the system.
Read more at Hearings set on impact from salinity levels in FPL nuke cooling canals