HOMESTEAD – Deloris Velez said she can’t shake the images from Japan and the threat of a nuclear meltdown at facilities in that country.
Velez thinks of that disaster every time she looks out from her backyard. She lives three miles as the crow flies from the Turkey Point nuclear power plant in South Miami-Dade that is 24 miles south of Miami and just east of Homestead.
Velez lives well within the 10-mile emergency zone that extends from Elliot Key in the east; past past Krome Avenue to the west; and from Eureka Drive in the north to Ocean Reef in the south.
When she looks out from her backyard, she can see the stacks of Turkey Point.
“I can’t even fathom what the people in Japan are going through,” Velez told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench. “It’s devastating for those poor people.”
But Velez says she is not worried about her safety while living so close to Turkey Point.
“We’ve seen them have drills, evacuation drills,” said Velez.
“They do drills all the time,” said Velez’s granddaughter, Tianna Angueira.
Florida Power and Light, which operates the two units at Turkey Point, tests its sirens within the emergency zone four times a year.
“You can hear those alarms go off,” said Velez. “They are doing all sorts of checking throughout the year.”
Next-door neighbor Latina Sharp is a college professor whose father and step-father are both nuclear engineers. She also knows a Turkey Point management engineer who is in charge of one of the reactors.
“I know that if anything happens, if there’s a problem, no matter how minor,” said Sharp, “there’s a shutdown in milliseconds I would say.”
FPL says every six weeks, plant operators are tested for knowledge and performance.
“They do a lot of testing that I know about, a lot of testing to see if their people are up to speed and that all the ordinances are complied with, so I feel very secure,” said Sharp. “We just heard the sirens.”
Homestead resident and Miami-Dade Commissioner Lynda Bell says the sirens go off on the first Friday in March, June, September and December and she says the plant is tightly regulated.
“There are very strict regulations from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and there are sorts of emergency regulations in place,” Bell said. “I’ve been assured that our residents are safe. There is a plan. The plant is also not like the ones in Japan and Turkey Point is not in a seismic area, if you will.”
An FPL spokeswoman told D’Oench that the devastating winds and storm surge from Hurricane Andrew on August 24th of 1992 made for a test case for Turkey Point. She said there have been no serious problems at the facility since the first unit started in 1972. The second unit began operations in 1973.
Turkey Point supplies enough power for the annual needs of 450,000 homes.
Bell said Turkey Point was designed for the worst-case scenarios. She said the Turkey Point plant is designed to withstand a series of natural events including hurricanes without losing its ability to perform safety functions.
“If it withstood Hurricane Andrew, that’s good enough for me,” said Velez. “I was here for that, lost my house and saw what it did.
Sharp’s neighbor Gladys DeCaso also agreed, “they know what they are doing,” she said.