Florida regulators will decide how much customers will pay next year for nuclear power plants that are still a decade away from construction, while consumer advocates contend that the costs dont add up.
TALLAHASSEE — Every time you pay your energy bill, a portion of it goes to build a nuclear power plant that won’t produce power for at least another decade and, if opponents have any say, never will.
The state Legislature, the governor and the head of the state’s utility board all say that Florida’s future will include new nuclear facilities, setting aside concerns about the meltdown of the Fukushima reactor in Japan, reports of imperfect new reactor designs and rising construction costs.
FPL wants $2.09 a month from each customer using an average of 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity. Progress Energy wants more than twice that — $4.80 per month for 1,000 kilowatt hours, about a 20-cent decrease from what customers are currently paying for nuclear projects.
“We believe the outlook for nuclear in Florida is dimmer now than when we started this,’’ said Charles Rehwinkel of the Office of Public Counsel, which represents consumers before the state Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities. “The most customers are looking at is getting the opportunity to get a certificate [to build a plant] but to get one built cost-effectively doesn’t look good.”
It’s a blank check that Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, and conservation groups bitterly oppose. Fasano says he now regrets his vote to support the 2006 law and has filed legislation in the past few years to repeal the so-called “nuclear cost recovery” provisions. But because of the industry’s lobbying power, he said the measure never gets a hearing
Progress Energy is seeking a license to build a new nuclear power plan in Levy County and another to expand its existing Crystal River plant. In 2006, the company projected that the cost of the Levy plant was $4 billion to $6 billion, with the first reactor going online in 2016. Today, the project costs have exploded and estimates indicate it will cost from $17 billion to $22 billion, and not be online until 2021.