Florida nuclear power critics skeptical of safety plans

The Miami HeraldMarch 16, 2011 

Federal regulators, state and local emergency managers and Florida Power & Light say they may learn lessons from Japan’s battle to control earthquake-crippled reactors but they downplayed the possibility of a similar nuclear nightmare striking the state.

After a review of plans for Florida’s three nuclear plants, Gov. Rick Scott declared the facilities and emergency responders prepared to face any “natural or manmade disaster’’ — from a quake to far-more-likely hurricanes and storm surges. One facility, Turkey Point in South Miami-Dade, already has weathered a hit from a Category 5 hurricane — Andrew in 1992.

Michael Waldron, a spokesman for FPL, which also operates a nuclear plant in St. Lucie County, said the utility’s reactors were designed to endure “worst-case’’ impacts and boast a back-up cooling system that operates on steam when emergency diesel generators fail — a redundancy Japanese reactors lack.

“The factors that caused this event are extremely unlikely in South Florida,’’ Waldron said Tuesday.

The reassurances don’t assuage activists, who contend Japan’s struggle to contain the worst radiation release since Chernobyl underlines the inherent dangers of nuclear power and difficulty of dealing with unexpected disaster.

South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard, a Florida International University biology professor who campaigned against FPL plans to add two more reactors at Turkey Point, acknowledged a quake was improbable.

“But think of the other things that could happen,’’ he said. “What if somebody drops an airplane into a spent fuel pool or Castro decides to crash a MIG into Turkey Point?’’

Stoddard and other critics of the Turkey Point expansion argue that emergency plans fall short, starting with a 10-mile-radius evacuation zone standard for all U.S. nuclear facilities. In Japan on Tuesday, the government urged residents up to 18 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi plant to remain indoors.

Stoddard said South Miami-Dade roads would clog as residents outside the zone tried to flee as well, potentially slowing evacuation from the hottest zones and delaying access to potassium iodide pills that are stockpiled for distribution at an emergency reception center in Tamiami Park near Florida International’s main campus. Medical experts say the pills, mega-doses of iodine, can prevent one of the most common forms of radiation sickness, thyroid cancer.

To read the complete article, visit www.miamiherald.com.

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