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Utility regulators scrutinize energy giants’ nuclear energy plans

by Dara Kam | August 10th, 2011

In the wake of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, utility regulators will again start looking into an expansion of nuclear power in Florida and decide how much of the bill will be shouldered by rate payers.

Florida Power & Light and Progress Energy are asking the Public Service Commission to sign on off their proposals to pass off about $355 million in nuclear energy-related costs to residents and businesses. The money would go to upgrade existing power plants, including one in St. Lucie County, and two cover the costs of new nuclear reactors that may not begin operating for at least another decade.

Hearings on the nuclear cost recovery plans are scheduled to begin this morning at 9:30 a.m in Tallahassee and can be viewed live on the internet at www.floridapsc.com or The Florida Channel’s website at www.thefloridachannel.org. The meeting will begin with a discussion of which documents will remain secret.

Juno Beach-based FPL is asking for about $196 million next year to help upgrade nuclear plants in St. Lucie and Miami-Dade counties and to move forward on a plan to build two new reactors at the Miami-Dade site known as “Turkey Point.”

The energy companies and many state lawmakers the expansion of nuclear power is necessary to wean the state off fossil fuels and to save money for customers.

But attorneys for large businesses, consumers and environmental groups question the methodology the energy companies are using and whether customers will actually benefit in the long run.

The state Office of Public Counsel, which represents consumers, argues that FPL’s decisions to “fast track” the new reactors led to inflated costs – an argument FPL disputes.

If approved, FPL’s request would result in a $2.09 increase next year for residential customers, based on 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity usage.

- The News Service of Florida contributed to this story.

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5 Responses to “Utility regulators scrutinize energy giants’ nuclear energy plans”

  1. Bill Newton - Florida Consumer Action Network Says:

    How can one say nuclear power will save money when the cost is not known? FPL isn’t prepared to pay for a disaster because the Federal Government (taxpayers) are responsible through the Price-Anderson Act.

    These plants are on the coast, just like the Japanese plants. In July, a chain of 12 underwater volcanoes was discovered in the South Atlantic. UM geology Professor Tim Dixon said a tsunami in South Florida is possible.

    And, of course, even if a Japanese style disaster doesn’t occur, the cost of waste disposal is unknown.

    We DO know that the cost of solar is coming down rapidly. GE says it will be cheaper than other sources within 5 years. But it won’t deliver the profits that nukes do, and that’s why we’re having these hearings.

  2. Mark Goldes Says:

    NUCLEAR PLANTS CAN MELTDOWN DUE TO A LITTLE RECOGNIZED THREAT FROM SOLAR FLARES

    The sun has unleashed an extremely powerful flare. Fortunately, the emission will not hit us. If it did, NASA warns it could being down a huge part of the power grid for months or years.

    A nuclear plant without grid power for a month is a meltdown threat.

    See the Aesop Institute website for maps worth a thousand words.

    Mobilizing to prevent the worst can unite the nation, revitalize the economy and generate jobs!

  3. Unreal Says:

    Oh boy let the nuclear fear mongering begin from the solar lobby. There are 100s of nuclear plants in the US and Europe that have been operating for a long time with no problems at all. Technology has advanced greatly in the last 25 years particularly, and the Fukushima plant was a dinosaur in nuclear terms.
    However, I am not in support of sluffing off operating costs on citizens. You run a business, you expend the capital until you deliver the product. That’s why business is a risk. If you fail, then your investors/lenders take over.
    You take maintenance reserves out of cash flow over time for upgrades in the future.
    There is a definite need for more nuclear power. IE a market for investment.

  4. Mark Goldes Says:

    I have no connection with the solar energy industry.

    The Carrington event and other extreme geomagnetic storms, if they happened today are predicted by NASA to cost $2 Trillion without considering the meltdown potential of nuclear plants.

    The nuclear industry is unable to raise capital without massive government support.

    New energy technologies are emerging that are cost competitive. See Moving Beyond Oil and E-Cat plus on the Aesop Institute website for some examples.

  5. Unreal Says:

    @Mark I was referring to the first poster regarding the solar energy.

    And I am aware of the predictions for solar activity and their supposed threat to our power grid. The event you refer to is also a once or twice every 1000 year type of event also.

    Secondly the ambient energy solution you propose is very new and unproven. Even the report you cited says that the first uses will be in the transportation arena. That is not a solution for mass energy.

    And the reason why investment is shy in the nuclear arena is because of the time it takes to get through the government red tape, and the litany of lawsuits that always arise. If the government wants reliable power they need to set a standard for construction and implement all permitting based off of that design.

    Wind Power is a pipe dream. It is only available in certain areas of the country. As is solar power. Current battery technology is not sufficient for constant on demand energy needs of consumers particular when there are extreme temperature changes. Mass energy requires consistency and that is what you get with nuclear power.
    Europe who is much more progressive than the US has many more nuclear plants than we do, and do not suffer from the same energy battles that we do. It should tell you something.
    If ambient energy gets off the ground and it can be proven in smaller applications than i would support it on a larger scale, but until then no.

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