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Are wind turbines a nuclear threat?  

Two St. Lucie Nuclear Plant employees have raised safety concerns about wind turbines damaging the plant, but Florida Power & Light Co. officials maintain there is no danger.

The concerns are raised in internal documents from FPL that were sent anonymously to County Attorney Dan McIntyre on Thursday.

He received a public records request for documents related to turbines around the same time and contacted an FPL attorney to see if they would fight having the records released, said company spokeswoman Amy Brunjes. The documents were released to the media late Thursday.

Using an internal messaging system after an employee meeting last July that included a discussion about turbines, the employees said Nuclear Regulatory Commission approval of the project “is unlikely due to numerous nuclear safety concerns.” Though two employees sent the messages, the text is identical.

The messages cite the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005 and subsequent hurricane-related upgrades made to facilities at the plant. While the plant is prepared to deal with damage caused by a thrown blade within its steam turbine generators, a blade thrown by the wind turbines could impact several other systems and that could affect the ability of the plant to safely shut down, according to the messages.

The employees mention concern about the switch yard, which helps maintain off-site power coming to the plant, startup and main transformers, a diesel oil storage tank, a service building where employees would be during a hurricane, the steam turbine generator and communication towers.

One of the messages recommends discontinuing the project on FPL property.

A manager posted a response to the messages Aug. 23, noting the exact locations of the turbines still was to be determined and a safety study was underway.

“Any decision on location of the wind turbines will be implemented only after it is acceptable to the plant and FPL nuclear division management,” the message stated.

FPL said a November study by the engineering firm Sargent & Lundy found there was no danger to any part of the plant based on the current turbine sites there. The study used winds up to 360 mph, Brunjes said.

Brunjes said there would never be any danger to the reactor and the employee concerns revolved around “ancillary facilities.”

“Safety is the first concern and always will be,” she said.

Brunjes declined to comment on whether the employees who raised the concerns were disciplined or fired.

She said she had no knowledge of whether other concerns have been raised internally about the turbines. Brunjes was also unaware of how many people might have seen the employee messages or the response.

“This is a safe and good project, and we would like to move forward,” she said.,” she said.

? Florida Power & Light Co. has proposed putting nine turbines on Hutchinson Island, six on land it owns at the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant, and three on state land at Blind Creek Park that is leased by the county.

? The state land is co-owned by the state Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund (affiliated with the state Department of Environmental Protection) and the South Florida Water Management District.

? County Attorney Dan McIntyre recommended commissioners not allow FPL to operate on the land because it was purchased in part with county conservation money. DEP has said it would consult with the county in deciding whether to approve FPL’s turbine proposal.

? Last month, FPL dropped plans to place turbines on county-owned property at John Brooks and Frederick Douglass parks after McIntyre found the sites were bought with conservation money and many residents protested the sites.

By Derek Simmonsen

TCPalm

8 February 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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