While preparing a presentation for delivery at a local college, I ran across a video of Florida Power & Light’s August 10, 2013 demolition of the historic Cutler power plant in Palmetto Bay, Florida. Cutler Plant’s tall smokestacks played a role in my early interest in nuclear energy.
My father worked for FP&L as the supervisor of transmission substation engineering. When I was about eight years old, Dad told me about the new nuclear power plants that his company was building near Homestead, Florida that would not even need smokestacks. My memory may be failing me a bit, but I am pretty sure that conversation took place while we were munching on shelled peanuts in the shade under the ficus trees on the grounds of the Cutler Plant. That plant was the site of the company’s annual picnic; I have fond memories of those family gatherings at the private park in the shadow of the power plant and its smokestacks.
That long ago conversation was the start of my lifelong fascination with nuclear energy and its environmental superiority over competitive forms of power generation.
Unfortunately, despite the promising start, FP&L only built four nuclear units and did not replace all of its fossil fuel burning power plants. FP&L’s four nuclear units directly displaced the need to burn millions of tons of imported oil and prevented the emission of tens of millions of tons of CO2. Though many people opposed to nuclear energy conveniently forget this fact, the growth of nuclear energy in the US from 1973-1993 helped to push about 1.3 million barrels of oil per day out of the electrical power market, mostly in places like New England and South Florida.
The near term replacement for FP&L’s recently demolished Port Everglades and Cutler plants will be American natural gas, which is also capable of producing power without needing such tall smokestacks. Over the longer term, the company also plans to add two new Westinghouse AP1000 reactors to the Turkey Point power station. If completed, those plants will reduce natural gas consumption in one of the country’s most gas dependent states.