NRC: Rail-traffic threat to St. Lucie Nuclear Plant requires ongoing monitoring

Posted on June 9, 2016

By Lisa Broadt

Florida Power & Light Co. needs to continue to assess the potential impacts of increased rail traffic on its St. Lucie Nuclear Plant, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.


In a May 19 letter to the activist group CARE FL, the commission said it had reviewed FPL's safety plan for its Hutchinson Island power plant. The facility is about two miles from the Florida East Coast Railway tracks, which would be shared by FEC freight trains and All Aboard Florida's Brightline passenger trains.

CARE initially asked the regulatory commission to look into threats to the nuclear facility posed by increased rail traffic, a development that would "add an entirely new dimension to the plant's safety analysis and evacuation needs," according to CARE.

Potential increases in the transport of hazardous materials — such as ethanol, chlorine gas and liquefied natural gas — intensify the threat to the plant and the public, Stephen Ryan, CARE attorney, said in the letter sent to government agencies including the regulatory commission, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Railroad Administration and the Florida Department of Transportation.

In its response, the regulatory commission said it found no immediate changes needed, but noted FPL should continue its periodic reviews of its safety plan — which factors in train frequency and the types of materials carried by the trains — and its evacuation procedures.

FPL previously has stated that the plant "meets and in many cases exceeds" federal requirements, and that its emergency plans are "regularly evaluated" by FEMA.

"St. Lucie (plant) has multiple backup safety systems and extensive emergency response plans," said Peter Robbins, FPL nuclear communications manager.

St. Lucie Village Mayor William Thiess last month sent a similar letter to federal agencies.

Florida East Coast Railway is the sister company of All Aboard Florida, which plans to begin 16 daily round trips between Miami and Orlando by late 2017.

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