St. Lucie Nuclear Plant: NRC meets with residents

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. - A small crowd turned out for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's presentation Wednesday in St. Lucie County.  The annual assessment of St. Lucie Units 1 and 2 was positive.

"Overall it's safe to say the plant is operating safely, we don't have any major safety issues," said Roger Hannah with the NRC.

But there were some issues: Three unplanned shutdowns.  

Residents asked why one shutdown, spurred by a large influx of jellyfish that killed a large number of other fish, wasn't made public for months.  

Another resident pointed out a large number of allegations by nuclear workers going directly to the government instead of their managers.  

NRC officials said meetings with plant management were held recently over employee concerns. Coincidentally, this meeting falling on the same week the NRC sent Florida Power & Light a letter saying the facility would be under increased oversight.  

On the NRC's website, there are mostly green squares marking the safest conditions at the country's 104 nuclear plants.  But at the St. Lucie plant, there are a few white squares, indicators of increasing safety significance.

"That simply means that there was a trend in that area that we want to make sure FPL addresses," said Hannah.

FPL spokesman Peter Robbins said all of the unplanned shutdowns were manually done by operators.

"We have a very, very low threshold for identifying any low level issues before they can evolve and become potential problems," said Robbins.

Nuclear energy makes up 20 percent of FPL's total power output. The utility is in the midst of a $2.5 billion dollar upgrade to increase output at its two nuclear plants.

"So it's improving the existing plant. It's improving things like pumps and valves and other components in the plant," said Robbins.

The added NRC oversight will continue until the feds feel that FPL has taken the appropriate steps to address the unplanned shutdown issue.

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