SPUTNIK–Anticipating the worst from Hurricane Irma, Florida Power & Light Company announced Thursday it will be shutting down its Turkey Point and St. Lucie nuclear plants – the state’s only operating nuclear power plants.
The company would be shutting down four nuclear reactors in total — two in Turkey Point and two in St.Lucie.
Though Rob Gould, chief communications officer at FPL, declined to offer specific timing on when the facilities would be shuttered, he did indicate that both sites “are among the strongest in [the] US.”
According to FPL spokesperson Peter Robbins, Turkey Point’s nuclear reactors are enclosed in six feet of steel-reinforced concrete and are situated 20 feet above sea level. The Homestead, Florida, plant also has a “backup to the backup” plan that involves extra generators and fuel. The St.Lucie location is similarly protected and can withstand flooding from storm surges, Robbins added.
“This is an extremely dangerous storm,” Gould told reporters during a Thursday presser. “This storm has the potential to eclipse Hurricane Andrew.”
Back in 1992, Andrew, a fellow Cat-5 storm, struck the Turkey Point site and caused $90 million in damages, despite officials touting that it could withstand tough conditions, the Miami Herald reported.
“No grid is designed to be able to withstand a Category 5 storm that has [winds] approaching 180 or 185 miles per hour,” Gould said. “It’s just not practical.”
Turkey Point, according to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, is expected to shut down Friday evening with St. Lucie following roughly 12 hours afterward — depending on where Irma decides to swerve.
Despite the company investing $3 billion to strengthen its electrical grid with updated technology and new underground lines, Gould added potential flooding “will cause extensive outages… [if our] worst fears are realized.”
However, Gould went on to say that the company is “probably more ready than we have been for any other storm in our company’s history,” when taking note of the “virtually small army” of extra employees ready to act at a moment’s notice.
Among one of the top five largest electric utility companies in the US, FPL, owned by NextEra Energy, provides power to nearly 10 million people across the Sunshine State.