Miami Area Nuclear Plant In Partial Shutdown After Steam Leak
By Sayer Ji
Perhaps the most dangerous nuclear reactor in the U.S. is in partial shutdown following the discovery of a steam leak.
South Florida’s ailing Turkey Point nuclear power station is in the news again, with Unit 4, one of its two reactors, taken offline Sunday due to a steam leak, according to a Dec. 1st update released byIndustrial Info Resources online. Conspicuously, as of the writing of this article, there is no indication that this highly concerning event has received mainstream media coverage.
In a recent report, Is Miami on the Brink of a Nuclear Disaster?, we discussed the imminent possibility of a Fukushima-style meltdown at Florida Power & Light’s Turkey Point facility, only 41 miles south of Miami near Homestead; a reactor so primitively designed that it uses a 168-mile network of open air canals to cool it’s ancient reactors (built in 1972), reminiscent of a Medieval moat system.
Back in 2011, an online article published at Miami New Times titled, “Five reasons Turkey Point could be the next nuclear disaster,” identified the Turkey Point facility as the country’s next most likely reactor to undergo a full-scale meltdown; one which would make Miami uninhabitable, virtually overnight. It is an article well worth reading to get up to date on the gravity of the situation there.
A battery of recent reports reveals that the Turkey Point plant is in an ongoing struggle to keep its reactors cool enough to prevent a mandatory shut down; they are still in operation only because they lobbied for special permission to violate water temperature safety thresholds from the previous 100 degree limit up to their new one of 103 degrees:
- NPR, July 23rd: Nuclear Plant May Be In Hot Water Over Its Cooling System
- Miami Herald, August 28th: Florida Power & Light cooling canals at Turkey Point nuclear power plant still too hot
- CBS Local, August 28th: Storm Water Canals Near Turkey Point Will Be Used For Cooling System
- The Palm Beach Post, Sept. 11th: FPL emergency request OK’d for water to cool cooling canals
- Wink News, Oct. 16th: State agrees more water for Turkey Point canals
Even if we assume the Turkey Point facility will pass through this year’s cooling crises without reaching the 104 degree temperature threshold for immediate shut down, the problem will not stop there. With increased canal temperatures linked to accumulating salinity and an inadequate water supply within its canal system, climate change, a storm surge from a hurricane or tidal wave associated with an off shore seismic event, a power outage generated by a class X solar flare, or simply sea level rise – any of these could theoretically permanently incapacitate the reactors main and diesel back-up cooling systems, leading to a meltdown. What will follow will be irreversible, devastating and beyond remediation.
Even if we assume that the sort of eventuality described above will not take place in our lifetimes, or those of our children and grandchildren … even then, the Turkey Point facility, like all nuclear facilities around the world, is actively harming countless within the vicinity due to its routine release of highly carcinogenic radioisotopes.
All nuclear reactors in the U.S. are federally-permitted to emit radioisotopes into the local environment, exposing the uninformed populations to highly toxic elements, some of which will stay within the human body for a lifetime.
A highly concerning case study released over a decade ago, identified the Turkey Point nuclear facility as the cause of a, then, 37% rise in the average levels of radioactive Strontium-90 (Sr-90) in southeast Florida baby teeth from the mid-1980’s to the mid-1990’s. As reported in 2003:
“When compared with baby teeth collected from 18 Florida counties, the highest levels of Sr-90 were found in the six southeast Florida counties closest to the Turkey Point and St. Lucie nuclear reactors: Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River.
The current rise of radiation levels in baby teeth in Florida and in the U.S. as a whole reverses a long-term downward trend in Sr-90 levels since the 1960s, after President Kennedy banned aboveground testing of nuclear weapons 1963, due to concerns about increasing childhood cancer and leukemia rates from fallout.
Radioactive Sr-90 is a known carcinogen, which is only produced by fission reactions in nuclear weapons or reactors. It enters the body along with chemically similar calcium, and is stored in bone and teeth, where it can be measured years later using well-established laboratory techniques.
Significantly, the study documented that the average levels of Sr-90 found in the teeth of children diagnosed with cancer were nearly twice as high as those found in the teeth of children without cancer.”
Additionally, we recently published an article describing how routine releases of radioactive emissions that occur during plant refueling can generate up to 500 times higher releases within 12-hour periods than the industry and their regulators admit. If this occurs under normal operating conditions, we can only imagine what may happen during emergency situations where a reactor’s cooling system is destabilized, overheated and leaking steam.
Clearly the situation at Turkey Point needs closer monitoring and reporting. Please share this article with others, including contacts in media in order to help spread the word.