climate change and the influence of the nuclear industry

Es­ti­mated reading time is 2 min­utes.

AS SEA LEVELS RISE, a flawed un­der­standing of cli­mate sci­ence and the out­size in­flu­ence that the U.S. nu­clear in­dustry ex­erts on the NRC have con­verged, in­creasing the risk of dis­as­trous flood-induced ac­ci­dents at coastal nu­clear power plants around the United States.
 Turkey Point Nu­clear Gen­er­ating Sta­tion lies 25 miles south of down­town Miami. It houses two of America’s oldest op­er­ating com­mer­cial nu­clear reactors.

The site is mas­sive. On a clear day, you can see the con­crete con­tain­ment ves­sels of its two West­ing­house pres­sur­ized water re­ac­tors from the top of the Rick­en­backer Causeway in Miami. Its radiator-like lat­tice of cooling canals is vis­ible from the In­ter­na­tional Space Station. 

Turkey Point has be­come the by­word for the threat of climate-triggered nu­clear calamity. Many local of­fi­cials, con­cerned cit­i­zens, and en­vi­ron­mental groups worry that Turkey Point is un­pre­pared for sea-level rise. There’s a note of ur­gency in their cam­paign: The US Nu­clear Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion is poised to give Florida Power & Light (FPL), the plant’s op­er­ator, a li­cense renewal—basically, per­mis­sion to keep split­ting atoms well into the 2050s. FPL also re­ceived ap­proval in April 2018 to con­struct two ad­di­tional re­ac­tors at the low-lying site. 

FPL’s ap­pli­ca­tion for li­cense re­newal on its two ex­isting re­ac­tors lacks a sea-level–rise pro­jec­tion. A flood-specific analysis con­ducted after the par­tial melt­down of the Fukushima Dai­ichi nu­clear plant shows the com­pany ex­pects to see 0.39 feet of sea-level rise at Turkey Point Units 3 and 4 by 2033, which is a rea­son­able es­ti­mate. But how that es­ti­mate might be fac­tored into the plant’s fu­ture is unclear.

What’s more, FPL has also ap­plied to build two new re­ac­tors at the Turkey Point site—and the doc­u­ments sup­porting that ap­pli­ca­tion rely on a pro­jec­tion of one foot by 2100. The NRC ac­cepted that es­ti­mate. Over that same pe­riod, cities and coun­ties in South Florida use a pro­jec­tion of be­tween 2.6 to al­most 7 feet, based on the best avail­able pro­jec­tions from cli­mate au­thor­i­ties in­cluding NOAA and the United Na­tions In­ter­gov­ern­mental Panel on Cli­mate Change (IPCC).

The para­graphs above were taken from “The Calm Be­fore The Storm” by Mario Ale­jandro Ariza and Kate Stein for The New Re­public (Sep­tember 30, 2019).

To read the en­tire ar­ticle, click HERE.

Turkey Point Nu­clear Gen­er­ating Sta­tion south of Miami has be­come the by­word for the threat of climate-triggered nu­clear calamity. Click To Tweet

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Car­toon by Ben Jen­nings of The Guardian.


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