A report prepared for Miami-Dade County officials in Florida raises questions about water quality affecting the Biscayne Bay associated with operations at the Florida Power and Light (FPL) Turkey Point nuclear power plant and its canal system that is used for cooling.
FPL is a major utility subsidiary of NextEra Energy (NYSE:NEE) and it operates a cooling water canal system at Turkey Point.
The cooling canal was built in the early 1970s and serves as a heat sink for the power plant. It also receives industrial waste water discharges from plant operations.
The report says that as a result of the evaporation process, chemical constituents in cooling canal water such as dissolved salts become more concentrated.
The report says that long-term monitoring data indicate that the water quality within the cooling canal system “has deteriorated over time.”
While the canal provides a “closed loop” system, which is not directly attached to adjoining surface waters, the porous geography of the Biscayne aquifer allows water from the cooling system to move freely through the ground beyond the limits of the canal system.
In 2008, FPL got approved from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to uprate, or to increase the generating capacity of the nuclear power units. As part of that approval FPL implemented enhanced water monitoring.
By the summer of 2014, salinity levels in the cooling canal had reached a record high of more than 100 practical salinity units, or more than three times the typical levels for Biscayne Bay.
Also intake water temperature in the system had exceeded the federal operating license standard of 100 degrees F, reaching 102 degrees.
FPL has taken several measures in an attempt to address this. By December 2015, salinity levels in the canal system had decreased to 34 practical salinity units. That was achieved after additional water had been pumped into the canal and also after unusually heavy rain.
During the course of these efforts, FPL had gotten local government approval located pipes, used for pumping additional water, in nearby wetland areas. But that permission will expire after May 31, 2016 unless re-authorized.
NRC has also examined water issues at the canal in the past.
The two Turkey Point nuclear units are pressurized water reactors (PWRs) that are licensed to operate until 2032 and 2033.