Third eyes growing out of foreheads isn't really a good beach look, so we were a bit disturbed by a recent chat with a nuclear whistleblower. Thomas Saporito is a Jupiter-based former instrument control technician at nuclear power plants in Florida, Arizona, and Texas. He spent three years at Turkey Point, the Florida Power & Light-owned nuclear plant located just east of Homestead, and now works as a consultant and nuclear watchdog.
With a developing meltdown in Japan, the world is taking a wary look at the safety of nuclear energy. Here are Saporito's five reasons the nuke plant in our own back yard is apocalyptically unsafe. (FPL didn't respond to a request for comment but in the past has maintained that Saporito was canned with cause.)
1. It's old. When Turkey Point went into operation in 1972, it was licensed for 40 years. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recently "rubber-stamped" another 20 years, allowing the plant to operate until 2033. "This is uncharted territory," Saporito says. "They cannot dispute that those reactors may crack from being bombarded with high-level radiation."
2. Employees are afraid to report safety concerns. Saporito claims FPL fired him — twice — for whistleblowing. The utility's punitive bent has what he calls a "chilling effect": Nuclear workers don't come forward with safety concerns. His evidence: In the past six years, the NRC has received 160 anonymous complaints about Florida nuclear plants from their workers, "far in excess of any other nuclear plants in the U.S." What concerns Saporito is that those workers didn't feel safe bringing their complaints to FPL.
3. Just like in Japan, Turkey Point is susceptible to a meltdown caused by a natural disaster. A hurricane-spurred tidal surge from Turkey Point's neighboring Biscayne Bay could create catastrophic conditions identical to those in Japan. With power down, the plant would be forced to rely on emergency diesel generators to pump water to cool the reactors. Saporito believes those generators would "certainly" become inundated with water from the tidal surge, causing them to drown and fail.
4. The plant's spent fuel pools are brimming with danger. Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station's spent fuel pools are threatening to boil away and introduce radiation into the air. Last June, FPL was fined $70,000 for violations regarding Turkey Point's spent fuel pools. The negligence "could have resulted in a severe nuclear accident," Saporito says. "That could be a horrific disaster all by itself."
5. If Turkey Point melts down, Miami is doomed. Saporito says there will be no time to evacuate the city to protect ourselves from radiation. If there's a meltdown, "people are going to die," he says, "and the entire city of Miami could become a ghost town that nobody can go back to for 50,000 years."