Turkey Point Reactors Vulnerable to Global Warming, Experts Warn
"Another eight inches and 65 percent of the county's water control structures will fail," says Wanless. Salt water will come seeping across South Florida, destroying crops, corroding cars, and costing billions in damages. But eight inches is nothing, Wanless says. He expects South Florida seas to rise by at least four, probably six, feet by 2100.
A two-foot rise would plunge 28 percent of Miami-Dade below water. Miami Beach would be reduced to Ocean Drive (shudder) as celebrities scramble to save their Star Island mansions. Same thing across the Bay. Sayonara City Hall. Most worrying of all, Turkey Point Nuclear Facility would be an island in the newly created Sea of Homestead.
Although two new reactors at Turkey Point are being built at higher elevation, Florida Power & Light has requested to keep the two current nukes running until 2035. Given that they were almost inundated back in 1992 by Hurricane Andrew, what will happen as oceans continue to rise?
"The standards will be 85 years old by then, and that's a problem," says Arnie Gundersen, a Vermont-based nuclear engineer and consultant. "The Nuclear Regulatory Commission doesn't upgrade standards when they renew a license... even though we all know that the world has changed. Temperatures are higher and hurricanes are more powerful."
Even the new reactors at Turkey Point are being built with Hurricane Andrew in mind, instead of the mega storms we will see as global warming worsens. "No one is wondering what will happen if a category 6 hurricane rolls through," he says. "If tidal waves knock out the water pumps" - as they did at the Fukushima Reactor in Japan earlier this year - "you can have a meltdown."
FPL spokesman Michael Waldron says Turkey Point is safe and that the reactors are intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but "no one knows for sure what the climate change impact on sea levels will be 100 years from now."
A six-foot rise in ocean waters would be less dramatic than a meltdown, but almost as damaging. Less than half of Miami-Dade would remain, and of the land still above water, 73 percent would constantly flood. "That's uninhabitable," Wanless says. At eight-feet higher, Miami-Dade is an archipelago. At ten, we're Atlantis. But that's not even Wanless's worst case scenario, in which China and India pump more and more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, Tea Party deniers block American action, and seas rise by an astounding 20 feet by 2100.
"It's not unforeseeable at all," Wanless says. "It's happened before." Yeah, 130,000 years ago.
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