NRC, Army Corps give environmental okay to new Turkey Point reactors

FPL's Turkey Point plant overlooks Biscayne Bay.
FPL’s Turkey Point plant overlooks Biscayne Bay.

Building and operating two more nuclear units at Florida Power & Light’s Turkey Point Nuclear Plant will not have any adverse environmental impacts, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff said Wednesday.

The NRC and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have issued the final environmental impact statement for the proposed reactors known as Units 6 and 7.

FPL already operates two nuclear units at the site about 20 miles south of Miami.

The NRC developed the Turkey Point project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement jointly with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District. The Corps will use the document’s information in considering its federal permit decision in accordance with the Clean Water Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899.

The NRC staff continues to work on the project’s final safety evaluation report, which will include a review by the NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, an independent group of nuclear safety experts.

The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board is expected to hold a hearing in April on a legal challenge to to the Turkey Point 6 and 7 license application.

Sara Barczak, High Risk Energy Choices Director, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said the issue before the board will be the potential for contaminants in water that will be injected into deep wells at the site to migrate into the groundwater.

When the technical review is completed, the NRC’s Commissioners will conduct a separate mandatory hearing regarding the application and the staff’s review. All of these steps must be completed before the NRC can reach a final decision on the Turkey Point application.

FPL  submitted a Combined License application on June 30, 2009, seeking permission to construct and operate two AP1000 reactors at the site, near Homestead, Fla.  The NRC certified the AP1000 design for U.S. use in December 2011. More information on the design’s certification is available on the NRC website.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement is available on the NRC website. The NRC staff, in cooperation with the Corps, started the environmental review in June 2009 by gathering community input on what issues should be considered. The agencies continued gathering comments, including from the National Park Service as a cooperating agency (that agency’s role is described in the document), and issued a draft statement in February 2015. The NRC and the Corps met with the local community again in April 2015 to receive comments on the draft statement.

FPL’s application includes activities that require Army Corps of Engineers authorization under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbor Act of 1899. Those activities are described in the final statement. The Corps continues its review of FPL’s permit application to authorize those activities.

The four-volume statement and associated reader’s guide are also available via the NRC’s electronic document database, ADAMS, under accession numbers ML16306A364 (the guide), ML16300A104, ML16300A137, 8ML16301A018 and ML16300A312.  The guide provides the public a plain-language explanation of the proposed action and its potential environmental impacts. In addition, copies of the statement will be available for public inspection at the South Dade Regional Library, 10750 SW 211th St. in Cutler Bay, Fla.; and the Homestead Branch Library, 700 N Homestead Blvd. in Homestead.

Port of PB to tell Army Corps not to seek funds for deepening project

A ship loaded with steel rebar comes into the Port of Palm Beach last year.
A ship loaded with steel rebar comes into the Port of Palm Beach last year.

A proposed $88.6 million dredging and expansion project at the Port of Palm Beach’s harbor is off the table for now, but a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chief’s Report  stating that the improvements are needed will remain open until 2021.

Thursday the Port of Palm Beach Commission voted to accept executive director Manuel Almira’s recommendation that the port notify the Corps  it does not want to pursue the Lake Worth Inlet navigational improvement project that would have widened two channels and  deepened the inlet to 39 feet.

Almira said this past week the port received a request for the Army Corps asking if the Corps should include the project in its 2017 funding request to Congress.

The port’s tenants have all said they do not need a deeper inlet, as long as the inlet can be maintained at a 33-foot depth, Almira said.

The expansion has been widely opposed by residents of Palm Beach, Riviera Beach, Palm Beach Shores  and environmental and marine groups who  it would change the face of the area and could harm fishermen, divers, boaters, manatees and sea grasses.

In 2014, the Palm Beach Civic Association formed the Save Our Inlet Coalition to oppose the plans. The coalition said the Corps’ environmental impact statement was seriously flawed.

Thursday, Lisa Interlandi, an attorney with the Everglades Law Center who represents the Save Our Inlet Coalition, The Sierra Club, Florida Wildlife Federation, and the Center for Biological Diversity told the commission, “I’m glad to hear there is not support for the larger project.”

However, Interlandi said she would like for port officials to completely abandon the project. It’s difficult  to move forward with the chief’s report still open, placing the project on standby, she said.

Interlandi pointed to a recent study by the National Marine Fisheries Service which found dredging at the Port of Miami severely damaged reefs.

Commission Chairman Wayne Richards said that when the corps presented the project, it was made clear the port could pick and choose what needed to be done, and it has several areas of significant concern.

“We just had a major maintenance dredge project here that was very successful,” Richards said.

While the port has turned away vessels recently that were too large,  it’s an urban port surrounded by municipalities which have grown up around it, Richards said.

“How do you co-exist harmoniously?” Richards asked. “An $88 million project does not make sense and never made sense to us.”

“This is a significant step on behalf of the Port of Palm Beach to work with our neighbors and greater marine community,” Richards said.

A major  reason for the proposed expansion has been the  safety of ships while attempting to maneuver where the 400-foot-wide channel  narrows to 300 feet.

Richard Pinsky, a consultant and lobbyist hired by the port, said he is confident that funds will be available to keep navigation safe, but that a conversation with the harbor pilots needs to take place.

 

 

 

 

Richrds said, “This is a significant step on ehalf of the port ofPalm Beach to work with our neighbors and greater marine community

Port of Palm Beach dredging project slated to start next week

A ship loaded with steel rebar comes into the Port of Palm Beach last year.
A ship loaded with steel rebar comes into the Port of Palm Beach. Provided.

A $5.35 million maintenance dredging project at the Riviera Beach-based Port of Palm Beach’s entrance channel in the Lake Worth Inlet  is expected to start early next week and continue through mid-April.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, spokeswoman Susan Jackson said approximately 200,000 cubic yards of shoal material will be removed from Palm Beach Harbor. The sand will be placed on the beach immediately south of the southern jetty at the north end of Palm Beach, extending it by 60 feet.

Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. of Oak Brook, Ill. has been hired by the Army Corps to perform the work at the harbor. The Lake Worth Inlet connects the harbor to the Atlantic Ocean.  The job is 100 percent federally funded.

However, the port is paying Tallahassee-based WSource Group,  a consulting firm, $7,500 to inspect  the work and make sure the amount of sand specified in the contract is removed from the designated areas, including the entrance channel, Cut-1, Southern Turning Basin and Settling Basin

Port officials want the oversight because not enough sand was removed during a a dredging project conducted in  November 2014.  At that time the Army Corps hired Great Lakes to remove 1,200 to 1,400 cubic yards of sand, but the water was still too shallow in some places.  Ships such as luxury yachts and freighters carrying steel rebar used in construction could not enter the port, and the port lost money, as ships went to other ports,  the port’s executive director Manuel Almira said last year.

The port hired Weeks Marine, Cranford, N.J. to perform an emergency dredge that was completed in early January 2015. Another 3,200 cubic yards of sand was removed. The port split that $350,000 cost with the Florida Department of Transportation.

Army Corps project manager Shirsha Rayaprolou told the Port of Palm Beach Commission last week that the project that’s just beginning is a “major event,” and includes the entire harbor and basin. Dredging on this scale was last conducted in 2012, and the work should be sufficient to keep the waters at the proper depth for two years.

The contract calls for the entrance channel to be dredged to varying depths of 37 to 39 feet, the settling basin to 33 to 35 feet, and the southern turning basin to 33 feet deep.

The channel needs to be at least 33 feet deep in order for the ships to come in safely. Sand buildup, known as shoaling, occurs naturally and can make the channel too shallow in spots.

Using dredged materials on the shoreline helps to reduce risk and promotes coastal resilience.  The additional beach area also has inherent benefits in restoring critical habitat for shorebirds and marine turtles.