Two nuclear power plants exist on Florida’s eastern coast: the St. Lucie and Turkey Point facilities. Based on the current National Hurricane Center projections, it appears that Hurricane Matthew will come closest to the St. Lucie nuclear facility early Friday morning. Storm surge near the St. Lucie nuclear reactors may reach 2-5 feet, and with hurricane force winds of 130 miles per hour. Meanwhile, a significant water quality problem in the Southeast is the ongoing pollution at Florida Power and Light’s (FPL) Turkey Point cooling canal system. It’s unclear what effects high winds and storm surge could have on Turkey Point’s open air industrial sewer.
After flooding caused a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor in Japan, the Miami News Times published an article, “Five reasons Turkey Point could be the next nuclear disaster.” The article noted: “Just like in Japan, Turkey Point is susceptible to a meltdown caused by a natural disaster. A hurricane-spurred tidal surge from Turkey Point’s neighboring Biscayne Bay could create catastrophic conditions identical to those in Japan. With power down, the plant would be forced to rely on emergency diesel generators to pump water to cool the reactors….those generators would ‘certainly’ become inundated with water from the tidal surge, causing them to drown and fail.” (Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Tropical Audubon with Friends of the Everglades filed a lawsuit this summer to resolve the pollution problem caused by Turkey Point.)
A report published by the Union of Concerned Scientists evaluated the risks of flood surge on associated power plant infrastructure in southern Florida. UCS’s report states, “Although Turkey Point, a large nuclear facility along the coast, is unlikely to be flooded by a Category 3 storm, everything around it is likely to be, and damage to nearby major substations could still prompt widespread outages in the region.” Similar impacts may be expected of other power plants in the path of Hurricane Matthew.