2 Florida Nuclear Power Plants Prepare to Close for Irma

Two nuclear power plants in the path of Hurricane Irma will be shut down well in advance of hurricane-strength winds reaching South Florida, the Florida Light and Power Co. said Thursday.

The reactors at the two plants, Turkey Point on Biscayne Bay and St. Lucie on Hutchinson Island, about 50 miles north of West Palm Beach, are reinforced with steel and concrete and are above sea level, said Rob Gould, the chief information officer for Florida Power and Light Co. Both plants have multiple diesel generators to allow them to continue to operate if either loses power.

“Those two structures are among the strongest in America,” he said.

Irma hit the Caribbean on Wednesday as a Category 5 storm with sustained winds up 185 miles per hour, damaging 95 percent of the buildings in Barbuda. It is expected to reach Florida on Sunday but its path remains uncertain.

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Skeleton crews called storm riders will remain at the Florida nuclear power plants throughout the storm, Gould said.

Even if both plants were taken off line, there would be enough power available for all customers, according to the company.

And if either of the plants is shut down, it will remain offline until it is inspected and until evacuation routes are clear, Gould and Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday.

“Turkey Point will of course be closed at the right point, and I’ve been talking with FP&L, they’re all prepared to do it, we’re preparing both, to close it and how to reopen it,” Scott said. 

Gould noted that the eye of Hurricane Andrew passed directly over Turkey Point in 1992 and there was no damage to its nuclear components.