The Society of Environmental Journalists' Miami conference energy tour forged forward today, pursuing better understanding of South Florida's energy options in spite of a disinvitation by local nuclear reactor operator Florida Power & Light.
The visiting journalists saw FPL's Turkey Point nuclear power plant from the water as it crossed over to Biscayne Bay National Park and its recently-completed solar power installation. Park staff expect to earn back the $400+ thousand investment in solar panels, batteries and efficiency upgrades in seven years. The primary environmental benefit, however, is immediate: slashing use of their diesel generator from 24/7 operation to just one hour per day.
The SEJ group did not visit FPL's Turkey Point nuclear plant because the utility, following the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, reneged on an oral agreement to host us. FPL also declined to make a representative available for a panel discussion hosted by Philip Stoddard, the mayor of nearby South Miami. Stoddard is a biology professor at Florida International University and a critic of FPL's safety record. See the video below for back-story on his own troubles getting in to Turkey Point (and the critical intervention of Miami Herald reporter Curtis Morgan).
Our excellent nuclear power panelists, in addition to Stoddard, included:
- Jack Grobe, Nuclear Regulatory Commission
- David Lochbaum, Union of Concerned Scientists
- Alex Marion, Nuclear Energy Institute
- Peter Bradford, Vermont Law School
FPL, it turns out, was busy across town sponsoring a "teach-in" at Florida International University. Readers can judge the balance of FPL's event, announced earlier this week, for themselves.
SEJ's energy tour concluded with a visit to Miami-Dade County's waste-to-energy plant, operated by New Jersey-based Covanta Energy. The plant normally processes 60% of the county's waste -- about 2 million tons per year -- and generating 77 megawatts of electricity. With tourism in the dumps, plant officials say they are currently handling all of Miami's municipal waste.
Full disclosure: The author owns FPL stock, inherited from now-deceased grandparents who retired in Florida. He plans to divest that stock.