Energy group urges PSC to put off nuclear charges

An environmental group is calling again on the Florida Public Service Commission to reject requests by utilities to charge customers now for proposed nuclear power plants.

The PSC has scheduled a week-long hearing next week on requests from Florida Power & Light Co. and Progress Energy under a 2006 state law that allows utilities to charge in advance for nuclear plants even if they are never built.

FP&L; is requesting 33 cents for nuclear development in 2011, down from 67 cents this year, company spokesman Mayco Villafana said. Progress Energy is requesting $5.53 per month, a decrease of $1.46 per month now, Progress spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs said.

Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said Thursday the PSC should delay action for several years because the planned reactors are uncertain as the nuclear industry gets “cold feet” over building new plants. He said the group gave similar testimony in 2009 and 2010 but the PSC rejected it.

“That would be one thing if FP&L; and Progress Energy were paying the bill for these four new reactors,” Smith told reporters during a conference call. “But they aren’t. Because of bad legislation passed several years ago in the Florida state Legislature, it’s the Florida consumers who are on the hook.”

FP&L; is planning two new nuclear units at its Turkey Point power plant to open in 2022 and 2023, Villafana said. He disputed a news report suggesting that the utility is unsure whether it will build the new units and he defended the state’s nuclear cost recovery rule.

“Once the permits are obtained, a decision to begin construction will be carefully reviewed,” he said in an e-mail. “This approach is the best way for FPL to deliver clean, cost-effective nuclear generation to its customers.”

Progress Energy has proposed building a new nuclear plant in Levy County and the first units could be in service in 2021 if federal licensing remains on track, Jacobs said in an e-mail.

“The advanced nuclear cost-recovery legislation in place in Florida makes it possible for our company to pursue the kinds of capital-intensive projects that will help ensure clean and reliable power for our customers, both now and in the future,” she said.

(Photo of Turkey Point power plant provided by Florida Power & Light Co.. Story provided by the Florida Tribune. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Do not copy or redistribute without permission, which can be obtained by contacting