NextEra Utility Says Rain Helped Ease Nuclear Plant Pollution

  • FP&L says water quality improved in Turkey Point canals
  • Environmental group wants to see data before deciding on suit

NextEra Energy Inc.’s flagship utility Florida Power & Light said it has reduced water pollution blamed on its Turkey Point nuclear power plant south of Miami, helped by recent rain.

Salinity in the plant’s 168-mile (270-kilometer) network of cooling canals has stabilized after being diluted with fresh water, the unit of Juno Beach, Florida-based NextEra said Monday in a statement.

NextEra issued the statement after two environmental groups gave notice in March that they intend to sue the utility for violations of the U.S. Clean Water Act as soon as next month. The plant threatens the water supply for Miami-Dade County and the Florida Keys by discharging excessively salty water contaminated with tritium, a radioactive isotope, according to a statement from one of the groups, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

The alliance “welcomes any evidence confirming documented improvements to the pollution problems surrounding Florida Power and Light’s Turkey Point,” the Knoxville, Tennessee-based environmental group said today in a statement posted on its website. “We look forward to the new data, and will evaluate it closely before deciding whether or not to move forward with our lawsuit.”

The company drew water from a drainage canal to dilute the highly salty water and no longer needs to do so this year, FPL spokesman Peter Robbins said by phone Monday. Audubon Florida is “pleased” the fresh water is no longer needed, Eric Draper, the group’s executive director, said in a statement.

“We have been taking aggressive action to address the cooling canal’s water quality challenges and we are seeing significant progress,” Randy LaBauve, FPL’s vice president for environmental services, said in Monday’s statement. “We have been clear that it will take several years to fully resolve the canal system’s complex challenges.”

FPL disputes the environmental groups’ claims that the pollution threatens drinking water, Robbins said.

“There is absolutely no adverse impact to drinking water, safety or public health,” FPL Chief Executive Officer Eric Silagy wrote in an editorial in the Miami Herald. “There is not now, nor will there be, any lasting adverse impact on Biscayne Bay.”

Monday’s statement didn’t address levels of tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. Tritium at higher-than-normal levels, but well below that allowed in drinking water, has been detected in Biscayne Bay, FPL’s Robbins said.

“Of course, no one drinks water directly from the bay, but if we did, it would be perfectly safe by EPA tritium standards,” Silagy said in the March 15 editorial.

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