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Florida's Nuclear Worries?

A two-page report on a proposed Turkey Point nuclear power plant appeared this weekend in the Sun Sentinel, but calling it a "two page" report doesn't really begin to cover it. These are massive pages, 1,600 words in total. Feature-length pages, in Sentinel terms. And why? Is there a radiation leak? Is there a scandal? Nope. Just some concerns about whether the plant's proposed safety precautions are adequate.

And they are. Probably. There are already nuclear reactors at Turkey Point, which is in Homestead, and the reactors' containment features are so beefy that Hurricane Andrew barely touched em. (Though it did do some damage to a smokestack.) The new reactors would be beefier still, featuring a gravity-reliant cooling system which would continue to function even in the event of power loss.

Still, there are concerns.

Chief among them: Of the two casings containing the proposed reactors, the outer one is apparently quite fragile. The Sentinel quoted Dr. John Ma, head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, who claimed that this outer containment building could "shatter like a glass cup" if hit with a sufficiently fast-moving projectile.

Frightening, no? Thankfully, beneath that containment building is still another barrier between the radioactive material and the outside world, and that one's made of steel.

Still, you can't be too careful. Proposed nuclear reactors need all the vetting they can get, and giving them 1,600 words in Fort Lauderdale's most widely-read publication is absolutely appropriate. There should be more stories along these lines. Too bad that even this one almost certainly would have gone unpublished, or been dramatically smaller, if Japan wasn't in trouble. If newspapers always paid this much attention to the safety features of nuclear power plants, Japan would be a lot better off.

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Brandon K. Thorp

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