St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant
The St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant, owned by Florida Power & Light (FPL), is located off of Highway A1A on Hutchinson Island. The plant currently has two nuclear power units. The first unit’s construction began in 1970, with power production for unit 1 beginning six years later, in 1976. The second unit was built in 1977 and began producing power in 1983. Currently the two units together produce almost 1,700 million watts of electricity, which is the equivalent amount of required energy to power 500,000 homes through combustion engineering.
For those who cannot make the trip to the center itself, FPL also offers an online version of the visitor’s center called E4 Online. E4 Online has several interactive exhibits and allows individuals to play games and earn prizes while learning about energy. St. Lucie Power Plant also works to educate consumers on the environment. Of the 1,132 acres owned by FPL, only a quarter are actually used by the plant. The remaining land is allowed to stay in its natural form as beaches, swamps, and marshland.
This undeveloped area is used for environmental events to educate the public. One of the most prominent ways the company does this is through the sea turtle program. Sea turtles that swim into the waterway are measured, tagged, and released back into the wild. Lobsters and fish are also trapped, tagged and released. Some marine life is also sent to aquariums for public education purposes. The power plant employs biologists around the clock for the specific purpose of tending to local wildlife. The Power Plant also hosts Turtle Walks every June and July, where the public can view sea turtle nesting. Over 1,000 people attend the Turtle Walks every year. Altogether, 180 species of wildlife inhabit the preserve at St. Lucie, and of those 36 are endangered or threatened.
Unfortunately, for all its work supporting the environment around the plant, the St. Lucie Nuclear plant’s older construction may put employees inside the plant in danger. One of the materials used frequently in this older plant construction is asbestos, which was once valued for its high resistance to heat and electricity, making it an efficient insulator. As a result of those insulating properties, the material found use in the walls, ceiling and floors of these facilities, in addition to its use on the actual equipment generating power, like the turbines. When this material is handled or damaged, it fragments into small particles that can suspend in the air and enter the body, leading to a host of dangerous health conditions, including mesothelioma.