FPL completes massive, multi-year upgrade of nuclear power plants

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Florida Power & Light Company announced Thursday the successful completion of a five-year, multibillion-dollar investment to upgrade its Turkey Point and Saint Lucie Nuclear Power Plants, adding more than 500 new megawatts of clean energy capacity.

At approximately 1:30 yesterday afternoon, Turkey Point Unit 4, the final unit to undergo an upgrade as part of the project, was connected to Florida’s electrical grid. The upgrades of Turkey Point Unit 3, located in Miami-Dade County, and St. Lucie Units 1 and 2, located in St. Lucie County, were completed in 2012.

“With consistently low fuel costs, zero emissions and the ability to operate around the clock, nuclear power is a critical component of our state’s energy mix today and tomorrow,” said FPL President Eric Silagy. “By increasing the amount of power that our nuclear plants can generate, this investment added the equivalent of a new, medium-sized power plant to Florida’s generation fleet, without having to build one.”

The upgrades, known as “extended power uprates” are massive, highly-complex engineering projects. FPL surpassed the initial projection of 399 megawatts for the entire investment at the end of 2012, and the project is estimated to deliver nearly 30 percent more capacity than originally projected. The project – the largest U.S. nuclear project in recent history – involved an enormous construction effort at both plants, including:

  • Thousands of Jobs: An average of about 3,500 people worked on the project every day during 2012 alone;
  • Millions of Work Hours: More than 22 million man hours of work – more than three times the number of hours it took to build the Empire State Building – with approximately 4 million hours alone dedicated to engineering;
  • Miles of Materials: The work involved the installation of 38,000 feet (more than seven miles) of electric wiring conduit; 288,500 feet (more than 50 miles) of electrical cable and approximately 16,000 linear feet of pipe (approximately three miles).

In addition, this work contributed to the state’s economy, particularly in the communities surrounding the plants. Roughly half of the personnel employed for construction were Florida residents. Also, local hotels, restaurants and other services benefitted from an influx of specialized workers that had to be brought in from outside the state for components of the project.

For FPL’s customers, the uprate investment is expected to deliver a variety of benefits over the course of its operating lifetime, including:

  • Fuel Savings: The added capacity is expected to save customers billions of dollars on fossil fuel costs, with more than $100 million in savings in the first year of operation alone;
  • Fewer Emissions: By reducing fossil fuel usage, the project avoids 33 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions, which is the equivalent of removing 5 million cars from the road.

“For decades, nuclear energy has helped power Florida’s economy, keeping our air cleaner and saving residents and businesses billions of dollars in energy costs,” Silagy said.

Investments in efficient power generation such as nuclear are one of the reasons why FPL’s typical residential customer bills are the lowest of the state’s 55 electric utilities and 26 percent below the national average. In addition, because the vast majority of the electricity that Floridians use comes from power plants that burn fossil fuels, nuclear power provides valuable energy diversity.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.