Despite water issue, NRC panel finds no need to redo 2014 environmental report on Turkey Point

Although a 2014 environmental assessment (EA) on license amendments issued to the Florida Power & Light (FPL) Turkey Point station by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in 2014 fell short of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) standards, an NRC panel ruled that the agency won’t need to revise them.

That’s the bottom line from a May 31 ruling by a three-member panel for the NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB).

NRC had issued license amendments to the utility subsidiary of NextEra Energy (NYSE:NEE) that allowed FPL to increase the ultimate heat sink water temperature limit for the cooling canals at Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Units 3 and 4, located approximately 25 miles south of Miami.

Citizens Allied for Safe Energy (CASE) has challenged the adequacy of the 2014 Environmental Assessment (2014 EA) associated with the granting of these license amendments

“We conclude that the 2014 EA fails to satisfy the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) because of its deficient discussion of saltwater migration, saltwater intrusion, and aquifer withdrawals,” the ASLB said.

“Nevertheless, we further conclude that the NRC Staff will not need to revise the 2014 EA because record evidence developed in this adjudicatory proceeding cures the identified deficiencies in the 2014 EA,” the ASLB said.

Turkey Point Units 3 and 4 employ a cooling canal system as their ultimate heat sink. After being discharged from the plant into the cooling canal system, heated water flows over a 13-mile loop before returning to the plant, where the water is recirculated for cooling purposes and the entire process is repeated.

The operating licenses for Units 3 and 4 were renewed in 2002. Those licenses included technical specifications that set an ultimate heat sink water temperature limit of 100 degrees Fahrenheit (F) in the cooling canals.

In early July 2014, the water temperature in the cooling canals began to approach the permissible limit. Consequently, on July 10, 2014, FPL sought license amendments to raise the limit to 104 F.

In this proceeding, both FPL and the NRC staff presented expert testimony that the freshwater withdrawals from the L-31E canal will not have a significant impact on saltwater intrusion because such withdrawals are limited to periods of high rainfall when such water would otherwise flow into Biscayne Bay—as opposed to into the groundwater.

“This Initial Decision supplements the 2014 EA and thereby satisfies the NEPA obligation to take the requisite “hard look” and also justifies the finding of no significant environmental impact,” the ASLB held.

Any party can review the initial decision within 25 days. The case involves Docket Nos. 50-250-LA and 50-251-LA ASLBP No. 15-935-02-LA-BD01.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.