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Wastewater Won’t Be Wasted at Turkey Point

Sept. 23, 2013—Wastewater won’t be wasted when Florida Power & Light’s Turkey Point nuclear energy facility begins using millions of gallons a day to cool two planned reactors.

An agreement between FPL and Miami-Dade County could take up to 90 million gallons a day of treated wastewater that otherwise would be injected into deep wells or sent to Biscayne Bay and use it to cool the reactors. FPL would further treat the water before it is used.

FPL and the county began discussions in 2007 on the wastewater plan for the projected Turkey Point 6 and 7. Under a 2010 agreement, FPL will significantly reduce its demand for other cooling water sources for the new reactors.

The utility applied to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2009 for a license to build and operate two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at the site—that application is being reviewed by the NRC.

Turkey Point 6&7

An artist’s rendering, courtesy of FPL, shows the proposed Turkey Point 6 and 7 reactors. 

“The county had regulatory objectives to dramatically increase its use of reclaimed water,” said Steve Scroggs, FPL’s senior director for project development, noting that it currently recycles only 1 to 3 percent of the 350 million gallons a day of treated wastewater it produces. “It turned out to be a win-win solution.”

Scroggs explained that selecting a site for nuclear reactors is always a challenge, particularly in a state with significant competition for limited water resources. This untapped resource aided the siting decision.

The construction of a wastewater treatment facility will be integrated with that of the new reactors, with permits approved by the state of Florida when the NRC approves the reactors’ combined construction and operating license.

The concept of using wastewater to cool a thermal electric generating plant isn’t new—FPL and its parent NextEra use it for combined-cycle natural gas plants.

However, the most extensive use—and first in the world for nuclear plants—is by Arizona Public Service, which has been using the process since the 1980s at its three-reactor Palo Verde site, the largest nuclear energy facility in the United States.

Bob Lotts, water resource manager for APS, said that when the company began to consider building a nuclear plant in the middle of the desert in the late 1960s, it knew that pumping groundwater was not a viable option.

“APS approached Phoenix city officials and asked if it could purchase the wastewater,” Lotts said. “Wastewater didn’t have any value to Phoenix, so they were quite amenable to the idea.”

APS broke ground on Palo Verde in 1976 and began testing the wastewater treatment facility on the site in March 1982, about four years before the first reactor began commercial operations.

Scroggs, who has known Lotts for years, said that FPL engineers had met with their Arizona counterparts in 2008.

APS also said that the use of wastewater to cool Palo Verde gets high public approval, a reaction echoed by one of Florida’s leading environmentalists.

Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, works on energy and water policy. He sees merit in FPL’s wastewater treatment project.

“We don’t take a position for or against nuclear energy, but we favor the use of reclaimed wastewater for processing or cooling water at power plants [whatever] the fuel,” Draper said. “It is a good way to handle a troubling waste product and displaces the use of raw groundwater for cooling or processing.”

Draper explained that Audubon works from a science-based and practical perspective to formulate policy and is interested in “solutions.” Using wastewater solely for drinking and irrigation isn’t feasible because the nutrient content is so high it adds nitrogen and phosphorus to the surface water.

“So to have a power plant take treated wastewater, treat it additionally and use it for cooling or process water, keeps it from being a waste product and offsets other use of groundwater,” Draper said. “As a policy we favor the approach that water is a valuable product, and coming up with a creative solution for power plants is a good idea.”

Scroggs added that once Turkey Point 6 and 7 are operational, the wastewater treatment facility will cool not only the new reactors but also the combined-cycle natural gas plant already operating on the site.