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Commission to Decide if Ratepayers Must Fund Nuclear Power Plants

The Florida Public Service Commission hears arguments today on whether power companies can raise rates to pay for nuclear plant development, even if the plants don't get built. Credit: Craig Anderson/iStockphoto.com.
The Florida Public Service Commission hears arguments today on whether power companies can raise rates to pay for nuclear plant development, even if the plants don't get built. Credit: Craig Anderson/iStockphoto.com.
August 18, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Public Service Commission hears arguments today on whether Florida Power and Light and Duke Energy should be allowed to charge ratepayers for costs associated with developing nuclear power plants.

A 2006 state law requires power companies to get approval for "advance cost recovery" once a year. The commission has already approved $250 million toward Florida Power and Light's two reactors planned for Turkey Point, near Miami.

Sara Barczak, high-risk energy choices program director with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, calls it a "nuclear tax" and says there are no refunds if the plants aren't built.

"It's just a waste of money," she says. "Why charge customers in advance for something they themselves aren't even committed to doing?"

The proposed reactors would still need federal approval, and wouldn't go online until 2027. According to Florida Power and Light, the nuclear plants would save customers $570 million in fuel costs in their first year of operation. The commission is scheduled to rule Oct. 19.

Duke Energy shut down its facility at Crystal River and cancelled plans for two reactors in Levy County, but Barczak says they're still asking for permission to recover development costs.

"Duke ratepayers are on the hook for roughly $3 billion," she says. "I don't know how many more lessons learned we need in Florida in order for regulators and lawmakers to see that the direction that Florida has been going in doesn't work for customers."

Barczak wants the commission to deny the rate increases, and says she hopes Florida will move toward renewables, energy efficiency and conservation.

While today's hearing isn't open to the public, it is being streamed live on the Internet. The public can submit comments online.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - FL