By David Adams
MIAMI (Reuters) - A group of South Florida mayors are escalating their campaign against plans to expand a nuclear power plant near Miami that involves constructing 100-foot (30-meter) tall transmissions lines through some of the area's toniest neighborhoods.
Florida Power & Light Co [NEEPWR.UL] is seeking federal approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to add nuclear reactors to its Turkey Point plant in south Florida. Public hearings are scheduled for next week.
Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado urged residents to speak against the project, which was approved by the Florida legislature last year.
"This plan should not be approved," he said, arguing that the need for extra water for cooling ponds would shrink the area's supply of fresh water.
Also rising sea levels due to climate change put the plant at risk of being flooded by salt water.
Florida Power and Light, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Inc, is the state's largest electric utility serving 4.6 million customers.
The company said a real estate boom in South Florida points to increased future electricity demand in coming decades.
"It would be short-sighted and irresponsible to take the option of new units at the existing Turkey Point site off the table," FPL spokesman Greg Brostowicz said in an email.
The additional reactors would cost between $12 billion and $18 billion and enter service in 2027 and 2028. The two 1,100-megawatt reactors will together generate enough power for about 1.3 million homes and will use wastewater for cooling, he added.
The city of Miami, together with the neighboring cities of South Miami and the village of Pinecrest are battling FPL in court. They want the utility to spend an extra $48 million to $60 million to lay the transmission lines underground.
Philip Stoddard, the mayor of South Miami, said FPL had underplayed the risk of sea level rise to Turkey Point which sits on the coast 25 miles (40 km) south of Miami.
The existing plant is protected to 20 feet (6 meters) above sea level, said Brostowicz, and "can withstand severe flooding associated with the most extreme natural events, including a storm surge higher than Category 5 Hurricane Andrew which made a direct hit in 1992."
The new reactors, elevated to 26 feet (8 meters), also take into account extreme storm conditions as well as increased sea level rise due to climate change, he added.
(This story has been corrected in ninth paragraph to show reactors would enter service in 2027 and 2028)
(Editing by Lisa Shumaker)