FPL reactor upgrade set to generate power surge
By Scott Blake
Florida Power & Light Co. said Tuesday that upgrades to one of its reactors at the Turkey Point nuclear power plant south of Miami are 90% complete and, when finished, will enable the plant to start boosting power output later this year.
With the work to Turkey Point Unit 3 expected to be completed in a few weeks, upgrades on Unit 4 are expected to start in November for completion in spring 2013, the company said.
The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently announced its approval of the plan to start increasing the power output of the plant's two reactors by 15%, beginning this year for Unit 3 after those upgrades are finished, and next year for Unit 4 after that work is finished.
"The approval indicates that [the commission] has independently determined that the power uprate is safe and includes the amended license permitting Turkey Point units 3 and 4 to operate at a higher power level," the company said in a statement to Miami Today.
"As the result," the statement continued, "the Turkey Point nuclear plant can now increase its electrical power output of both nuclear units upon completion [of the upgrades] for each unit in 2012 and 2013."
The upgrades at Turkey Point, about 25 miles south of Miami at a remote site on the Atlantic Ocean, started in February.
The work has coincided with similar upgrades at FPL's St. Lucie nuclear plant on Hutchinson Island near Fort Pierce.
The most recent cost estimate for both projects is $2.95 billion to $3.15 billion, up from a previous estimate of $2.3 billion to $2.5 billion.
The company originally provided no explanation for the increase, but the next day issued the following statement about the increase:
"The earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the earthquake in Virginia adversely impacted Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff resources, and extended the timeline for the review of FPL's" proposal, the company said.
"These events resulted in significant cost and schedule impacts to the [project]. The additional cost is primarily driven by the increased project scope that is necessary to support Nuclear Regulatory Commission requirements, design evolution and construction and implementation logistics.
"Simply put," the company added, "the additional cost mainly reflects that more engineering, labor and supervision work is needed to be employed to complete the installation of the upgraded equipment in the plants."
FPL said it hired about 5,000 temporary workers, as planned, for the Turkey Point project. In addition, about 800 permanent workers normally staff the plant.
Meanwhile, FPL said it is following through on a larger and more expensive plan to add two more reactors at Turkey Point, called Unit 6 and Unit 7.
The two additional reactors, with a current projected cost of $12.8 billion to $18.7 billion, would not go into operation until 2022 or 2023, the company has said.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is in the process of obtaining all information it needs to evaluate FPL's application to add the reactors. The project would create about 3,600 construction jobs and about 800 permanent jobs, the company said.
The company is "currently pursuing both state and federal licenses for the [units] 6 and 7 project," FPL said. "The state approvals are currently expected in 2013 and the federal approvals are expected in 2014."
In addition, FPL said it has taken necessary steps at Turkey Point since federal regulators issued $140,000 in fines to the company in April.
FPL was cited for failing to report that the ventilation system for the plant's emergency response facility â€" called the Technical Support Center â€" had been taken out of service on two occasions.
"This is an onsite facility that would be activated during a severe nuclear incident," the company said Tuesday.
"These types of incidents are highly unlikely and represent a 'worst case' scenario," it said. "The Technical Support Center would serve as a work area where engineering personnel would provide technical assistance to control room operators during an emergency situation."
FPL added: "The system is currently fully operable and we have taken a number of steps to ensure this does not happen again in the future.
"We have updated our procedures to ensure that anytime maintenance is being performed on a component related to our emergency facilities, a member of our emergency planning staff does an independent review to determine if it would impact the plan in any way."
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