Feds reopen public comment on Turkey Point expansion

Nuclear regulators are giving the public more time to comment on the environmental consequences of a controversial plan to add two new reactors to Turkey Point.

On Thursday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced it would take additional public comment on an environmental study until July 17. The agency made the decision after the Seminole Tribe asked for time to meet with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and nuclear regulators.

Environmentalists and neighboring governments have sharply criticized the expansion of the plant, which overlooks Biscayne Bay and sits between two national parks. Critics say the new reactors pose much risk to nearby wetlands and Biscayne Bay and threatens drinking water supplies. The reactors would be cooled using treated waste water from a nearby county sewer plant, but if supplies come up short, FPL would pump water from the Floridan aquifer.

Since last summer, the utility has struggled with cooling canals for two existing reactors, a fact that critics worry could signal future problems. The increasingly salty canals have worsened an underground saltwater plume that is moving toward drinking water supplies. To control the canals, the utility has been pumping fresher water from a nearby waterway. But critics say that water is needed in Biscayne Bay, which is also struggles with rising salinity and damage to marine life.

The tribe asked for more time after it was unable to meet with federal officials before the May 22 deadline to comment on the study. The study, conducted by the NRC, concluded that benefits would outweigh any environmental damage caused by the plant and ranked the location over other choices in St. Lucie, Glades, Martin and Okeechobee counties. Before a license is issued, the NRC must also complete a safety review. That review is not open to public comment.