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HOMESTEAD (CBSMiami) – Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and hundreds of construction workers celebrated Wednesday as Florida Power & Light prepares to begin a $1.25 billion upgrade to its existing nuclear reactors at Turkey Point. Gimenez also indicated he will support the company’s controversial plans to add two new reactors to the South Miami-Dade complex.
“I’m here about job creation, that’s what I’m here about,” Gimenez said. “This upgrade project is vitally important to our community.”
The upgrade will allow FPL’s Turkey Point reactors to generate 15 percent more energy, enough to power more than a quarter of a million homes. The project is expected to keep some 5,000 construction workers employed for at least a year, and generate an $11 million a month boost to the local economy.
When completed, the project will permit the aging reactors to crank out more power, using more and hotter steam. Critics of the project are cringing.
“We’ve got 40 year-old reactor vessels. They’ve been bombarded by neutrons for 40 years, and they’re getting brittle,” Said South Miami Mayor Phillip Stoddard. “Do you really want to turn up the heat and pressure inside those things?”
Stoddard said the upgraded plants will also consume and release more water, further threatening the water supply for communities in South Miami-Dade and the Keys.
FPL said water emitted by the plants will be hotter by a few degrees, but said the upgrade would not draw from the ground water supply or contaminate it. The company also said the project will operate safely.
“There are exhaustive reviews of every single step of the process by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and that we do internally, to insure that everything is safe,” said FPL spokesman Peter Robbins.
The upgrade to FPL’s existing reactors pales next to the company’s bigger plans to build two additional reactors at Turkey Point.
Mayor Gimenez said he is in favor of the company building the new reactors, provided the plans pass regulatory muster.
“I think it would be a good thing for this community,” Gimenez said. “Will they create jobs? Absolutely. They will create a lot of good paying jobs in the local community.”
FPL’s Robbins said nuclear power has proven to be a “zero-emissions energy source” that has saved customers billions of dollars on fossil fuel costs.
South Miami Mayor Stoddard argued, though, that the billions it will cost to build the proposed new reactors – a precise projected cost has not yet been calculated – will result in whopping rate increases for consumers.
The expansion of the existing reactors generating capacity is a done deal, expected to be fully complete within two years. The proposal to add the two new reactors to the facility remains in the regulatory pipeline and approval, if it comes, could take several years.