RE: All Aboard Florida rail expansion project creates dangerous impact on St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant
Posted on June 9, 2016
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, June 9, 2016
Contact: Alia Faraj-Johnson, 850-222-4100
Statement by: Brent Hanlon, Chairman of
Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida Steering Committee
RE: All Aboard Florida rail expansion project creates dangerous impact on
St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant
“In April 2016, Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida (CARE FL) contacted three federal agencies—the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)—as well as two state agencies—the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM)—regarding serious concerns related to the impact the All Aboard Florida (AAF) project will have on the operation of the St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant. The nuclear plant near Port St. Lucie sits less than two miles across the Intracoastal Waterway from the Florida East Coast Railway (FECR), where AAF is proposed to run.
“CARE’s letter to the regulatory agencies outlines two points—the impact the project will have on evacuation routes and the potential of chemical releases or explosions due to a freight rail accident that could affect the nuclear plant. Attached to our letter were “plume” maps that are not being released to the public. These maps were created using standard software programs from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that are utilized by firehouses across the country, and they demonstrate potentially catastrophic events, such as a propane explosion or a release of chlorine or anhydrous ammonia.
“Based on AAF’s own projections, there will be additional freight rail traffic plus 32 passenger trains traveling the corridors each day right through an area identified as the Plant’s evacuation zone. Imagine the impact that will have on intersections in the affected evacuation area in the event of a nuclear incident.
“According to NRC regulations, at-grade rail crossings are required to be open to vehicle and pedestrian traffic during an evacuation, and in the event of a disaster, AAF/FECR trains will have to come to a full stop, which means that many intersections deemed evacuation routes could be blocked due to the length of the trains. Blocking critically needed crossings may put residents in harm’s way, create gridlock and prevent first responders and other vital services from reaching those in need.
“Additional freight and passenger rail traffic adds a whole new dimension to the Plant’s required safety analysis and evacuation needs. What is more troubling about this situation is that there has clearly been little or no public coordination on the part of AAF/FECR to address these issues with the regulatory agencies we contacted, and they were trying to remedy that only when it became clear that this issue was being raised.
“Additional freight and passenger rail traffic also increases the potential for rail accidents, and there is an increased probability that such an accident could involve a chemical release or explosion, which in turn could impact the Plant. Not only could such an unfortunate accident create toxic releases in the direction of the Plant causing it to lock down for hours or days, but there is also the possibility of an explosion that could take down the power lines that serve the Plant. This would affect not only the power being generated there, but also the power being provided to the Plant to sustain safe operations.
Agency Response, or Lack Thereof
“In the nearly two months since that letter was sent, the NRC has been the only office to respond. In fact, instead of responding, state agencies have asked local counties to address the issues instead. This is not the leadership we expect as Floridians.
“CARE FL appreciates the NRC’s thoughtful, substantive response and careful consideration of our concerns. We believe that this ill-conceived rail project continues to pose a threat to the safety and well-being of citizens residing within the nuclear evacuation zone and throughout the Treasure Coast.
“Our citizens deserve a response similar to the NRC’s from the remaining federal and state regulatory agencies. The FRA in particular has shown a pattern of behavior in ignoring our concerns, as they have also failed to respond on numerous other occasions to other letters and inquiries sent by CARE FL and Martin and Indian River counties. At some point we must question the intent behind the silent treatment from these government bodies.
“Protecting the safety of the citizens in this area is the top priority of CARE FL, and it should be a top priority of federal and state agencies as well. Treasure Coast citizens must be assured that dangerous scenarios have been taken into account and that plans are in place to take action in dangerous, life-threatening situations. Since AAF refuses to acknowledge these possibilities, these agencies must be prepared to step up, take responsibility and hold them accountable.”
CARE FL is a coalition created by a group of concerned community leaders, organizations and neighbors in South Florida and the Treasure Coast. Our group continues to grow. We share a common goal: Protecting the safety, welfare and way of life for the families, businesses and retirees who live in and around our communities. To learn more about CARE FL’s concerns, visit www.saveourfl.com and follow us on Twitter @CARE_FL or like us on Facebook.