With the Public Service Commission next week holding hearings on revised charges for Florida Power & Light Co. customers, a Senate bill would eliminate a 2006 state law that allows utilities to charge for new nuclear plants even if they are never built.
SB 200 by Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, would repeal a law that allows utilities to charge for building new nuclear plants and upgrading existing plants. The law has allowed utilities to collect more than $900 million from customers, according to the PSC.
"I'm not against nuclear -- never have been," Fasano told the Florida Tribune. "However I'm against the ratepayer having to build and pay for nuclear power plants."
The PSC next week will hold a three-day hearing on a request by FPL to collect various charges from customers including $62.6 million for nuclear projects.
The nuclear charges were approved separately the PSC last fall. The typical FPL residential customer would pay about 31 cents per month, down from 67 cents in 2010, according to the utility.
Projects include two new nuclear power units at FPL's Turkey Point plant in Dade County and upgrades to two existing nuclear power units there and two in St. Lucie County. The new Turkey Point units could go online in 2022 at a cost of up to $18 billion.
Progress Energy customers are paying $5.53 per month for nuclear projects, including a proposed new nuclear power plant in Levy County and upgrades at the Crystal River nuclear plant. The new Levy County plant could open in 2021 at a cost of up to $22 billion. But the utility won't decide until at least 2012 whether it will build the plant.
The PSC has approved $590 million in charges for Progress Energy customers and $314 million for FPL customers since 2008.
The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and the Green Party of Florida oppose "nuclear cost recovery." SACE is an intervenor in the FPL and Progress Energy cases before the PSC.
Susan Glickman, a consultant to SACE, said she couldn't comment on Fasano's bill because she had not seen it. But she said her group is concerned about the cost of nuclear energy compared to alternative energy sources, such as solar.
"There is concern from every quarter about how expensive the nuclear is," she said. "As evidenced by the bill by Senator Fasano, there may be many people who did not grasp how expensive a nuclear plant is to build."
Progress Energy supported SB 888 in 2006 that established nuclear cost recovery in state law, said Suzanne Grant, a spokeswoman for the utility. She said the utility could not comment on SB 200 because it has not had a chance to thoroughly review the bill.
Nuclear cost recovery allows utilities to plan for and build new nuclear plants for less than if the utilities had to borrow money and charge customers only after the plants were built, Grant said.
"Without nuclear cost recovery we would not be able to pursue the nuclear projects we are pursuing at this time," she said.
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