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Should FPL and Progress Energy Charge You $300 Million for Distant-Future Nukes Plants?

| September 6, 2012

Maybe they’ll be built. Maybe not. (huntz)

State regulators Wednesday began weighing whether Florida Power & Light and Progress Energy Florida should be able to pass along nearly $300 million in costs next year to customers for nuclear-power projects.

The state’s largest electric utilities are seeking approval from the Florida Public Service Commission to collect money that goes toward upgrading already-existing nuclear plants and helps pay for early work on possible new reactors.

But a broad settlement agreement early this year could reduce debate about one of the most controversial projects — a Progress Energy proposal to build two new reactors in Levy County. That settlement, between Progress and representatives of customer groups, attempted to resolve a handful of major issues and would allow the utility to collect about $350 million over five years as it pursues licenses for the Levy project.

The commission Wednesday heard testimony from an expert witness for FPL but will move into a full-blown hearing on the nuclear costs Monday. It will decide later this fall how much the utilities should be able to collect.

In all, FPL is asking to collect $151.5 million next year, while Progress is seeking about $145 million. If approved, the proposals would have relatively little effect on most customers’ bills — for example, the FPL proposal would cost $1.65 a month for a residential customer who uses 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, a common measuring stick in the utility industry.

Such costs, however, are highly controversial and have even led to a legal challenge by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy that is pending in the Florida Supreme Court. Trying to spur more nuclear power, state lawmakers in 2006 allowed utilities to bill customers for some upfront costs of nuclear projects, though new plants might not start generating electricity for years, if ever.

If Progress builds the Levy County project, the first reactor would not start operating until 2024, according to a PSC document. Similarly, FPL is working on possibly adding two new reactors at its Turkey Point complex in Miami-Dade County, with generation starting in 2022 at the earliest.

But while the potential new plants have drawn the most controversy, a major part of the PSC hearing could focus on projects to upgrade already-existing nuclear plants. About 90 percent of the money FPL is seeking would go toward upgrade projects at plants in Miami-Dade and St. Lucie counties — not to the possible new reactors.

Joseph McGlothlin, an attorney for the state Office of Public Counsel, which represents consumers, indicated during Wednesday’s meeting that he will question FPL cost overruns related to the upgrades.

–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida

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7 Responses for “Should FPL and Progress Energy Charge You $300 Million for Distant-Future Nukes Plants?”

  1. Merrill says:

    I’m a fan of nuclear energy and know that these plants can become highly profitable. When these plants start making money, will we get our seed money back?.

    • Bob Wallace says:

      There was a time during which these plants could become highly profitable, but I’m afraid those days are behind us.

      Consider the cost of the electricity coming out of a new nuclear plants built with customer money. It’s going to have to sell for $0.15/kWh or higher. And it’s going to have to average that much 24/365 (minus scheduled refueling times).

      So what happens when a bunch of people install solar and daytime rates fall below 15+ cents? (That’s happened in not-so-sunny Germany where a lot of solar has gone onto roofs. Their middle of the day electricity is sometimes cheaper than late at night rates.)

      The reactor looses money and has to crank up the cost for other hours. And what if someone installs offshore wind – there’s a bunch off Florida’s coast and the price of wind will be less than 15+ cents. More hours of loss.

      Then there’s natural gas which is generating electricity for about 5 cents.

      If nuclear has to compete in the free market it goes bankrupt. The only way for a new nuclear plant to stay afloat is for the state government to force customers to pay the high price it needs.

  2. Eileen G. Miller says:


  3. Samuel Smith says:

    I am totally ok with paying a few dollars a month to build new nuclear plants here.

  4. Sherry Epley says:

    NO WAY!!! Waste from Nuclear Power plants is FOREVER, it is radioactive, it is unsafe any place! They should be developing safe, clean, economical wind and solar technologies. . . and would be if they could figure out a way to make a profit by charging for sunlight and wind!!!

  5. Ben Blakely says:

    Sure! Pour it on!

    We taxpayers have boatloads of money that we are just eager to give to taxes, fees, sales taxes, power bills, water bills, sanitation bills, sewer assessments, phone bills, excise taxes, fuel taxes, uses taxes, insurance bills, food bills, hotel taxes, highway tolls, bridge and tunnel tolls, registration fees and more!

    Yup, we are just masochist taxpayers and bill payers, so bring it on FPL!

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