Florida nuclear plants are shutting down

Juan Madruga and Pehter Rodriguez of Florida Power and Light work on the Turkey Point Nuclear Reactor in Homestead
Juan Madruga and Pehter Rodriguez of Florida Power and Light work on the Turkey Point Nuclear Reactor in Homestead
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13 September, 2017

Hundreds of miles to the west, Florida braced for the onslaught, with forecasters warning Irma could slam headlong into the Miami metropolitan area of 6 million people, punish the entire length of the state's Atlantic coast and move into Georgia and SC.

FPL, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Inc, generates enough power for about 1.9 million homes at the Turkey Point and St. Lucie plants, which are both along Florida's Atlantic Coast, about 20 feet (6 meters) above sea level.

The company and its power-providing peers in Florida have spent billions of dollars over the last several years upgrading their technology and infrastructure to better handle storms.

Although FPL is fully staffed for the duration of the storm, Gould urged Florida residents to be patient and anticipate multiple power outages. "We are preparing for the worst and will likely have to rebuild parts of our service territory", Silagy said, noting the kinds of winds expected could snap concrete poles.

More than one million households and businesses in Florida have lost power so far. So, while the creation of a resilient energy grid may be a worthwhile investment in the face of foreseeable hurricanes, such an advanced system can still be crippled by a storm of unprecedented destruction.

Gould said the nuclear sites are among the strongest in the United States and are created to withstand heavy wind and storm surge, CNN reported. "It's just not practical".

That figure was reduced overnight from an estimated 7.2 million people without power, which represent 3.6 million customer accounts, thanks to a mass restoration effort.

"Turkey Point actually had a direct impact hit by Hurricane Andrew, a category 5, and suffered no damage to its nuclear facilities", Silagy stated. The storm left the power plant on backup generators and officials had to cool down the nuclear reactors after shutting the plant down completely.

FPL said it had invested almost $3 billion since 2006 to strengthen its grid, including placing 60 main power lines underground and installing almost five million smart meters and other devices. Nuclear reactors must be cooled after they are shut down, otherwise a meltdown can occur, which can lead to hydrogen-air explosions and the escape of radioactive material.

The country has 61 operating nuclear power plants in 30 states, according to the Energy Information Administration. "Irma, however, could retain much of its strength", said Jason Setree, a meteorologist at Commodity Weather Group.

And while 40-percent of power lines are now underground, those underground lines can be impacted by storm surge and flooding. This is a nuclear hurricane.

Silagy held a news conference to update its customers that they are working non-stop ahead of, during, and after the storm. We're going to keep operating that grid before the storm and during the storm. "It won't make a difference".


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