Officials at St. Lucie Nuclear Plant meet public at open house
By Susan Burgess
HUTCHINSON ISLAND — St. Lucie County nuclear power plants Units I and II scored a clean safety record for 2008, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspectors told about a dozen residents at Florida Power & Light’s Energy Encounter on Wednesday.
During an open house, residents came in and out over a three-hour time span, asking how the inspections went, wondering if security was beefed up after Sept. 11, 2001, and asking what FPL would do if there was any threat to the health and safety of the public.
Each of the two units reduces the consumption of oil by about 33,000 barrels a day, said FPL communications manager Tom Veenstra. Since the units came online in 1976 and 1983, they have reduced consumption by over 600 million barrels of oil, he said.
Lyall Metz, a retired aeronautical engineer and retired firefighter from Port St. Lucie, lived here when the nuclear power plants were built and said there was a lot of controversy surrounding them.
“It doesn’t bother me to live within the 10-mile zone,” he said. “They have a great safety record. I wish they’d build more rather than depend on foreign oil.”
More plants would mean more jobs as well, his wife Arlene said. She is retired from a career in banking.
The Metzes wondered if the plants have any reserves left to add even more power to the grid.
But Tim Hoeg, one of two on-site NRC inspectors at the plant, said both units are operating at capacity.
“We came out here because we’ve always been kind of interested in what goes on out here,” Lyall Metz said after he finished asking questions. “I would say we learned quite a bit about how the plant operates. We were very impressed.”
Marvin Sykes, branch chief from the NRC’s Atlanta office, said because the safety report was so good, the NRC will not be increasing the number of inspections next year. They do what they term “baseline inspections” that involve more than 2,000 hours a year of inspections, both by the two on-site inspectors and by inspection specialists from the Atlanta office.
Currently there are five nuclear units in Florida: two in St. Lucie, two at Turkey Point near Miami and one in Crystal River.
Florida Power & Light operates the four on the east coast of the state. Progressive Energy operates the one on the west coast.
Roger Hannah, senior public affairs officer for the NRC’s southeastern region, said Progressive Energy may apply for two more units in Levy County near Crystal River and two at Turkey Point.