Read frequently asked questions about St. Lucie Plant operations.
The fuel in a nuclear power plant is uranium, which is a natural ore found in the ground. Unlike coal, gas and oil, we don't burn uranium in a nuclear power plant. We get the heat needed to create steam from a process known as fission, or the splitting of atoms -- the smallest parts of any element. . Like all pressurized water reactors, St. Lucie has distinct loops of water that do not intermix. A closed loop of water is heated by fission in the reactor. We then transfer this heat to a second loop of water. The steam drives the turbine-generator that produces electricity.
Water used in the reactor and most other plant systems is piped in from the Ft. Pierce municipal water supply. We then purify the water at the plant to reduce mineral deposits that could otherwise reduce equipment efficiency and we test the water quality routinely in the plant's on-site laboratory. A separate supply of water that cools the turbine steam supply for re-use comes from -- and is returned to -- the Atlantic Ocean through pipes located offshore. This water is also monitored to ensure it meets all safety standards.
Yes. St. Lucie provides enough electricity to meet the annual power needs for more than one million homes. The St. Lucie nuclear units are safe and are among the most efficient plants in the FPL system. If the plant were not operating, we would have to purchase or construct additional facilities to provide about 2,000 megawatts to South Florida customers.
St. Lucie’s safety record
Nuclear power plants are very safe, as is FPL's St. Lucie Plant. FPL maintains very high operating standards and also meets or surpasses regulatory requirements. Employee and public health and safety are of highest priority at FPL in everything we do. Our plant workers are thoroughly trained and are experts in their fields. To further protect the public, our nuclear units are designed to use automatic safety systems and multiple safety barriers as part of our "safety first" policy.
First, our employees are our most expert safety guardians. Each employee understands that nuclear safety is his or her primary responsibility. Our plants are also monitored closely by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a federal government agency that oversees all U.S. nuclear power plants. Daily and special inspections -- some unannounced -- are conducted onsite at St. Lucie to make sure we meet federal regulations that protect public health, safety and the environment.
We have a rigorous maintenance program at St. Lucie to make sure the plant runs safely and reliably. Our employees are skilled in using preventive maintenance techniques to test and repair or replace equipment on regular schedules. As a result of this ongoing maintenance, our plant can operate safely and reliably now and in the future.
FPL has always had a comprehensive security program at its nuclear power plants, and extensive measures are in place to ensure the security of our facility. Our security plan is very detailed in how our security force is organized and what actions would be taken to protect the plant. Although we are not allowed to discuss the specifics of our plan, our comprehensive security measures at St. Lucie are designed to protect public health and safety.
FPL nuclear security programs and personnel are part of a larger local and national security network and are tested routinely to ensure the safety of our employees, our customers and the communities in which our plants operate. Plant security personnel coordinate with local law enforcement agencies, which also participate in onsite security exercises. We also keep in close communication with the FBI, Coast Guard and other government agencies relating to security.
The St. Lucie nuclear reactors are housed in massive steel-reinforced concrete reactor containment buildings that are designed to withstand earthquakes, floods and extreme weather conditions, such as hurricanes and tornadoes.
The reactor vessel itself is made of solid steel and is housed within the containment building. Additionally, the uranium fuel pellets inside the reactor are all encased in zircaloy, an extremely strong metal alloy. Redundant safety shutdown systems are also available to respond in the event of an emergency.
The Electric Power Research Institute, an independent, non-profit energy research group, also recently analyzed aircraft impacts on nuclear plant structures that house reactor fuel. The study results determined that the structures would not be breached, the fuel would be protected and there would be no radiation release. In addition to the containment building, other protective barriers include concrete shields within the building and the 5- to 9-inch-thick steel reactor vessel.
St. Lucie in the community
The plant is not only located in the community it serves, but is an integral part of the community. Our employees are actively involved in United Way, scout organizations, Little League Baseball, chambers of commerce and other local organizations. We are one of the area's largest employers, while providing a solid base of community support through local purchases, service contracts and tax payments. Our plant also does its part by providing a reliable source of electricity from safe, affordable and pollution-free nuclear energy.
Sea turtle nesting surveys have been conducted since 1971 on beaches near the plant. This is one of the longest nesting surveys in the world. The data has been invaluable in showing long-term nesting trends on one of Florida's highest-density nesting beaches. Plant biologists also lead "turtle walks" to enable members of the public to observe nesting sea turtles. These walks have been held since 1989 to increase public awareness of sea turtle conservation issues. More than 1,000 people attend these events annually.