Last week, President Obama stood in Everglades National Park
and stated that the region’s water supply and the entire wetland ecosystem are threatened by climate change, and especially sea level rise. If he stood a mere 10 miles away in Biscayne National Park, his warnings would need to be equally if not more dramatic.
Of the many threats facing the area, here are a few on the hot plate:
• the nuclear plant
• reef rot
• boat traffic
The Nuclear Turkey
Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station plant is the most visible eyesore near Biscayne National Park, and news broke last week of Nuclear Regulatory Commission hearings to build two new reactors in the same, waterfront
location. The state of Florida approved the project last year, and the NRC will issue the final ruling at some point after the comment period closes on May 22.
Not surprisingly, the park’s superintendent Brian Carlstrom has condemned the project, but he’s up against Florida Power & Light and its extensive lobby. A collection of mayors in Miami-Dade County raise important concerns in this video:
“Who in their right mind would put two new nuclear plants at sea level, with storm surge?” asked Cindy Lerner, mayor of Pinecrest and a strong environmental advocate. Fair question. Yet while storm surge happens infrequently, daily water extraction makes the current twin reactors the largest consumer of water in the county. Turkey Point is so expansive that it ranks as the nation’s sixth largest power plant.
The plant remained mostly intact after a direct hit from Hurricane Andrew in 1992, so wind is not the issue. It’s the water. Turkey Point uses 6,800 acres (about 10.5 square miles) of cooling canals that had previously been pristine wetlands. The winding canals are 168 miles in length. Miami-Dade County has complained about a recent reduction oversight, because Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) removed some of the water management district’s authority.
The accusation of secrecy and consolidation of power within FDEP echoes recent reports of FDEP’s implicit censorship of climate science.
Although the environmental questions around the new nuclear reactors are mighty, the state’s biggest concern is purely economic, because new reactors are extremely expensive to build. If predicted rates of sea level rise prove correct, the plant would not have time to recover its costs. The question now is if the state and FP&L will listen to science and to citizens, or only to their own wishes.
Tomorrow I’ll address some of Biscayne National Park’s other looming threats.