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).
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Cartoon by Ben Jennings of The Guardian.
Mystically liberal Virgo enjoys long walks alone in the city at night in the rain with an umbrella and a flask of 10-year-old Laphroaig who strives to live by the maxim, “It ain’t what you know that gets you into trouble; it’s what you know that just ain’t so.
I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn, and a college dropout (twice!). Occupationally, I have been a bartender, jewelry engraver, bouncer, landscape artist, and FEMA crew chief following the Great Flood of ’72 (and that was a job that I should never, ever have left).
I am also the final author of the original O’Sullivan Woodside price guides for record collectors and the original author of the Goldmine price guides for record collectors. As such, I was often referred to as the Price Guide Guru, and—as everyone should know—it behooves one to heed the words of a guru. (Unless, of course, you’re the Beatles.)