The readers’ forum

Nuclear expansion threatens our waters

 

Jerry Paul appears to be a prolific supporter of nuclear power. In his Feb. 23 letter he touts the supposed benefits of nuclear energy. Yet, in none of his several media statements supporting nuclear do I see a single reference to the most important resource we have in Miami: Our water.

Florida Power & Light wants to expand its nuclear facilities in south Miami-Dade, and they’re asking for an additional 90 million gallons of water a day to absorb the new waste heat generated. By comparison, Miami-Dade County is allowed 365 million gallons a day from the Biscayne aquifer, our main source of drinking water. And in its nuclear federal licensing application, FPL projects a whopping increase of 3,224 percent for water demand for its power generation compared to a 35 percent increase in public and commercial needs.

Miami-Dade County just permitted FPL to build new wells below Biscayne Bay to take water from the Biscayne aquifer, but without really understanding how this would affect the aquifer. Add this to the newest projections of sea level rise and climate change and we may be facing disaster for our water supply, not to mention the economic, recreational, and other benefits of a healthy Biscayne Bay. When there’s not enough freshwater flowing out to sea because of groundwater pumping or water diversion or the sea level rises, salt water starts creeping inland. This saltwater intrusion can contaminate our drinking water. Saltwater is unfit for human consumption, and can be extremely harmful to a coastal ecosystem. Once a well is intruded with salt-water, it often has to be abandoned for human safety concerns.

Already, there is evidence that the saltwater front is moving inland, which may be in part from existing FPL activities at Turkey Point.

Some external modeling shows that the saltwater front is further inland than it would be without FPL’s existing cooling canals. And now FPL wants to add insult to injury by pumping more water out of the aquifer. FPL still needs permit approval from both the state of Florida and the federal government before any new nuclear plants can be constructed. We should let them know how much we like having water to drink here in Miami-Dade.

Of course, Paul calls Port Charlotte home. Perhaps if he lived in Miami-Dade, he might be more thoughtful about endorsing such a menacing threat to our water. The touted, and likely over-inflated, economic benefits of building two new nuclear reactors on top of the very nationally important wetlands and Bay that we are trying to restore for their ecological and economic values is in the long-run a bad deal.

Sara Fain, senior staff attorney, Everglades Law Center, Coral Gables

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