Critics question safety of leading plant model for nuclear expansion

The Miami HeraldMarch 21, 2011 

The next-generation reactors Florida Power & Light hopes to install at Turkey Point have been touted as simpler and safer, boasting an emergency cooling system that automatically kicks on during a power loss like the one that sparked the crisis at a Japanese plant.

A tank high atop the Westinghouse AP 1000 holds 780,000 gallons of water. That’s enough, Westinghouse calculates, to control reactor heat for 72 hours without electricity or anyone even pushing a button. Instead, the system relies on gravity to deliver water and on evaporation and condensation to re-circulate it until generators or outside power can be brought on line.

But critics contend the AP 1000, also picked by Progress Energy for a new plant in Levy County and the leading model in the nuclear power industry’s expansion plans, may have flaws that could make it less safe under assault from an earthquake, tornado or hurricane and leave it more exposed to damaging corrosion along the salty coastline of South Biscayne Bay.

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