OPPD to ask for rate increase – Still no restart approved for Fort Calhoun

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The work and resources being expended by the Omaha Public Power District to restart the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Station stand in contrast to the argument that nuclear power is a cheap way to produce electricity.  The continued effort required at a site which has been shut down for over a year due to safety violations and concerns is set to add even more costs to ratepayer bills.

Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) spokesperson Paula Lukowski says the utility proposed the second-highest rate hike in ten straight years of increases  to the Board of Directors, the latest an increase of 6.9%. The Board of Directors will hear the proposal Thursday, November 15th and then vote on December 13th.

Rates will increase more than 7% for residential customers or $7.30 more each month for service. Industrial customers’ bills would increase by 8.5%, while the proposed commercial rate increase is 5%.

“This is still a proposal. We are just trying to fund a reliable system in an affordable manner,” Lukowski says, “We have had some circumstantial events the last few years they are working through. They will get those behind us but to move forward they will need this slight proposed rate increase.”

OPPD’s proposed rate increases are higher than several other local utilities, including the Nebraska Public Power District, which last week approved a 3.75 percent rate hike. Lincoln Electric System’s proposed increase is 2.6 percent.

Those problems include the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant that closed in April of 2011 for refueling. Problems at that facility surfaced during the 2011 Missouri River flood when the plant was surrounded by water. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is closely monitoring the progress made at that facility.

Edward Easterlin, vice president and chief financial officer, said it became clear that without more revenue from ratepayers, there would be noticeable effects on service and maintenance of key facilities, including Fort Calhoun.

“We would have to go in and start looking at how we maintain our system,” he said. “We would have to start making decisions that would impact reliability. We would always try to retain employee and customer safety, but it could effect how soon we respond to an outage.”

The utility’s proposed budget for 2013 is hinged upon the assumption that Fort Calhoun will reopen in February, but the NRC has not given the necessary approval a restart. If the restart were delayed, Easterlin said the district will have to spend more money to buy power which could have a significant impact on the budge.

“It’s critical we get it back up before the summer,” he said. “Once we get into the summer, the cost of the outage, the replacement (power) becomes much higher.”

The utility signed a 20 year $400 million dollar contract with Exelon, the nation’s largest operator of nuclear power plants, to help bring Fort Calhoun back on line and to oversee daily operations.

“The cost of this contract, and the associated re-start costs, play a significant role in this proposed increase,”  OPPD said in a statement posted to its website. The utility also notes that”despite all efforts to control costs” it is running $60 million in the red for 2013.

Source: Nebraska Radio Network

Source: Omaha

Source: Nebraska Watchdog


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