Friday, February 01, 2008

Reef builders to get 'junk' from FPL, need $17,000 to deploy in St. Lucie County


TC Palm
By Gabriel Margasak
February 01, 2008

ST. LUCIE COUNTY — One person's scrap is a fish's home — well, many fish actually.

Part of an aquatic residence being dreamed up off the Treasure Coast was once the container used to ship part of a nuclear reactor from France to the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant.

St. Lucie County's artificial reef builders picked through tens of thousands of pounds of material Monday that might be donated by Florida Power & Light, which included the non-radioactive reactor shipping container, part of a giant crane and other materials perfect for a plethora of sea life. The only trick will be how the county comes up with the $17,000 to deploy the items about 12 nautical miles off the Fort Pierce Inlet.

"We really get some good stuff form FP&L from time to time," said Jim Oppenborn, St. Lucie County's marine resource coordinator. "From our end, this material is very, very good. It's high-grade, very high quality steel. We normally couldn't get such big objects."

Among the trash turned habitat is a 50,000-pound column footer, several galvanized light poles and giant steel pot-shaped structures.

"We're not trying to attract any one particular species of fish," Oppenborn said. "But so far, we've documented 86 species of fish on our reefs."

Sharks, bait fish, snapper, grouper, sailfish, dolphin fish and schools of others are already plentiful on several previously deployed artificial reefs. And that attracts a plethora of divers and fishermen — which provides recreation opportunities and helps the local economy.

FPL officials were slated to help further by cutting holes in the reactor shipping container to make it more habitable for aquatic life.

April Schilpp, FPL's director of nuclear communications, said the Unit 2 reactor at the St. Lucie plant was taken off line in October 2007 to replace the reactor head vessel to "manage it for future reliability of the reactor."

The 18-feet in diameter, 7-feet tall, piece was shipped in the container aboard a massive Russian cargo plane because it was the only aircraft big enough to handle the load.

The piece of the reactor could be loosely described as the top of a pressure cooker.

Such a replacement is rarely needed, Schilpp said.

While the reactor shipping containers were big, Oppenborn has even grander dreams in the works — he wants to tow a decommissioned U.S. Navy destroyer from Philadelphia to the Treasure Coast to sink as another artificial reef.

The U.S. Navy is offering the 563-foot Ex-Arthur W. Radford for use as an artificial reef, according to navy records.



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