Reforms to nuclear plant charges heard in House & Senate

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SB 1472, sponsored by Senator John Legg, heads to the Senate floor to address concerns with a 2006 carve-out that permits utilities to begin billing customers for construction and startup costs for nuclear power infrastructure, even if the plant never gets built. 

The impetus for the 2006 measure was to counter the greater risk and expense it takes to build nuclear facilities and to encourage nuclear plant construction, with the broader goal of reducing Florida’s reliance on fossil fuels and lessening the state’s carbon footprint.

The House and Senate plans take different approaches to dealing with this.  The Senate bill, as heard in the Senate Community Affairs Committee, would require power companies to obtain needed licenses for building before preemptively imposing construction fees on consumers.  The House bill allows current charges to continue but prevents power companies from seeking these pre-construction costs for new plants. This measure, HB 7167, cleared its first committee on Tuesday morning.

Progress Energy and FP&L oppose changes to the 2006 law. They both have proposed nuclear projects, and assert that these pre-construction fees allow them to complete upgrades to existing plans that provide long term savings to consumers.

Indeed, Florida’s five nuclear reactors provide between 12 and 20 percent of the state’s electricity and collectively have “reduced fossil fuel usage by the equivalent of 5 trillion barrels of oil or 30 quintillion BTU of natural gas (that’s 30 trillion million).  Moreover, nuclear energy saved about $250 billion in avoided fossil fuel purchases, which was a cost that Floridians would have had to pay”, according to an April 8 op-ed in the Sun-Sentinel.  The author further offers that had the energy produced by Florida’s nuclear plants been produced instead by fossil fuels, the difference would be more than one trillion tons of carbon dioxide emissions.