Grijalva Urges Army Corps, Nuclear Regulators to Stop Cutting Corners for Nuclear Plant in Hurricane Alley’s Biscayne Bay

Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) released a letter to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) today requesting information about the agencies’ plan to permit the construction of two new nuclear reactors at Turkey Point, a site  adjacent to Biscayne and Everglades National Parks. According to formal comments filed by the National Park Service (NPS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process, the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) prepared by the NRC and the Corps and released last November failed to consider potential damage to drinking water supplies, wetlands, and wildlife habitat located within the parks or to account for potential damage to the reactors themselves from tropical weather and related storm surge.

Grijalva sent today’s letter, available at http://bit.ly/2lSKuVJ, based on his recent acquisition of the EPA and NPS comments, which were filed in December and were not widely publicized. The NRC and Corps have not yet finalized the permits for either nuclear reactor, and Grijalva is urging the agencies to release additional information about their potential impact before completing the permitting process.

“This project will contaminate people’s water supply and damage two of our flagship national parks, and the permitting agencies’ refusal to account for climate change and coastal hazards before finalizing their review is unacceptable,” said Grijalva. “We shouldn’t need multiple federal agencies to weigh in before we reconsider building more nuclear reactors at sea level in Hurricane Alley. The National Environmental Policy Act exists to make sure federal agencies are thorough and transparent and don’t make this kind of ill-informed decision. I hope the public reminds Congressional Republicans that despite their single-minded efforts, dismantling our environmental protections is not our nation’s top priority.”

Grijalva wrote last year to the EPA asking the agency to prevent Florida Power and Light (FPL) – the same company that wants to build the new reactors – from illegally discharging hypersaline water laced with radioactive material into the waters of Biscayne National Park. While FPL is slowly beginning to remediate that pollution, the company has not addressed the reason it exists: the failing unlined cooling canals that can no longer keep temperatures down inside the Turkey Point plant’s existing reactors. Rather than addressing that issue, FPL is now proposing to build two new reactors located on the same site that would use a separate cooling system, keeping the flawed canals in place at the existing reactors.

Today’s letter asks the NRC and the Corps if the agencies will address these existing failures at the Turkey Point plant before issuing new operating licenses. It also requests information on the agencies’ plans for adequately addressing a number of other environmental, public health, and public safety questions raised during the NEPA process. NEPA, a bedrock environmental law that gives people the right to know about and comment on federally permitted or built projects in their communities, was signed into law in 1970 – three years after construction began on the two existing nuclear reactors at Turkey Point. NEPA has come under fire from Congressional Republicans for allowing Americans to challenge projects that would pollute the places they live.

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