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The canals around the Turkey Point nuclear power plant near Miami, FL, are too warm and the state approved a request to add more water to cool temperatures down so operators can safety operate the facility.

State officials approved the emergency request for more water to control temperatures in cooling canals at a nuclear power plant near Miami.

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The South Florida Water Management District late last week granted the request for 14 million gallons of water a day to cool the canals at Florida Power & Light’s (FPL) Turkey Point power plant.

The utility blames below-average rainfall for raising temperatures and salinity and fueling an algae bloom that’s also trapping heat in the canals. FPL and nuclear regulators said the canal temperatures don’t pose any public safety risk.

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Since June, FPL has been struggling to control the hot canals and an algae bloom that has spread throughout the 168-mile loop. The canals were dug in the 1970s and act like a radiator to help keep the nuclear power plant from overheating.

The utility has blamed below-normal rainfall on the rising temperatures and increased salinity. In July and August, temperatures exceeded 102 degrees and twice threatened to shut down the plant. Because of the spike, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) raised temperature limits to 104 degrees to keep the plant operating.

“The water quality varies with the season,” Steve Scroggs, an FPL senior director, told commissioners. This summer’s rainfall over the canals is off by as much as 50 inches, he said.

“That is the precipitating event that results in higher salinity and high temperatures,” he said.

Hotter water can lead to saltier canals. This summer, salt levels have been about 50 percent higher than normal and twice the salinity of the nearby bay. Salinity is potentially more worrisome since the area’s salt front has already crept farther inland than in other parts of the county, threatening area drinking wells.

The state is currently revising its regulations on how the canals operate. Part of the revisions eliminate strict monitoring imposed when the plant expanded. But county commissioners agreed at a meeting Tuesday the canal problems point to the need for even more monitoring.

“There is no consensus on why this problem has gotten worse,” Christopher McVoy, a hydrologist and soil physicist, told commissioners. “All the data FPL has collected needs to be included and accessible to somebody who can put it together so you’re not voting for a temporary solution that becomes a permanent one and gets us into problems.”

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