Fla. PSC votes to protect big power companies

Guest Blog | October 16, 2009 | Press Releases

Commission approves controversial pre-payment scheme for Progress and FPL to pay for new nuclear reactors in spite of new federal licensing agency concerns

October 16- In spite of serious new information announced yesterday by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on major safety issues with the new reactor designs proposed to be built in Florida and numerous other states across the country, the Florida Public Service Commission voted 3-1 to put Florida families and businesses on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars. Commissioner Nancy Argenziano was the lone dissenting vote. With this decision, the PSC Commissioners supported the recommendation from PSC staff last week allowing Progress to recover over $200 million from its customers for unlicensed new nuclear reactors, yet Progress projects investing only $87 million next year for energy efficiency – a resource that displaces the need for speculative reactors that won’t operate for nearly a decade, if ever, and helps customers reduce their bills and meet their family budgets today. FPL was granted nearly all the utility asked for, nearly $63 million. A final Commission Order will be issued October 26, 2009.

“We are very disappointed with the Florida PSC decision today. The utilities won and once more the people of Florida lost,” said Dr. Stephen Smith, executive director with Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “The big power companies have placed all the risk of these new nuclear plants on the backs of the Florida consumers, and the PSC has become a rubber stamp. We feel strongly that Progress Energy and FPL did not meet the requirements necessary to charge their multi-million dollar expenses to Florida billpayers. This reinforces the fact that the FL PSC oversight process is broken and needs to be fixed. We commend Commissioner Argenziano for her vote to protect consumers.”

This decision was made in spite of new information just released by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Thursday, the federal agency in charge of licensing new reactors, that could further delay new reactors, including those proposed in Florida and by many utilities in the Southeast including Southern Company’s Plant Vogtle, TVA’s proposed Bellefonte site in Alabama, Duke’s pursuit of the Lee site in South Carolina, SCE&G’s V.C. Summer plant in South Carolina, and Progress’ proposal for Shearon Harris in North Carolina, among others across the country. The NRC informed Westinghouse on October 15 that their AP1000 design, which is proposed for all four reactors in Florida, failed to meet key safety issues that would protect the reactor’s containment during severe weather and other events. The NRC has not yet stated how this will affect the overall schedule.

SACE experts, among others, testified to these delay concerns during testimony in this docket before the FL PSC. Mr. Arnold Gundersen, a nuclear safety engineer and energy advisor with 38 years of nuclear experience, testified for the organization that the proposed projects will experience construction delays and cost overruns in the future that will negatively impact Floridians, if these reactors are ever built. He also argued that these delays were not properly accounted for by either utility.

“That there would be licensing delays was obvious to me months ago, and I told the Florida PSC to expect more delays. This new issue from the NRC proves my analysis to be correct. FPL and Progress are pushing too hard, too fast. I believe this particular structural problem will be worse in Florida because of geologic problems at the Levy Co. site and possibly Turkey Point,” said Mr. Arnold Gundersen. “A construction slow down is now inevitable, which will add to the high costs that Floridians will be facing if these reactors move forward. Rushing to build a plant with known design problems in a unique geological area is a waste of Floridians’ hard earned dollars.”

“Our other expert in the case, Mark Cooper, clearly stated in his testimony that there is no need to rush to build four new nuclear reactors in Florida,” continued Smith. “Given all the information put forward during this case and now with this new information from the NRC it is time to re-think whether these four new nuclear reactors are needed at all as it’s very possible they never may be built.”

View the U.S. NRC press release on safety concerns with new reactor design at http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/news/2009/09-173.html.

View all information related to this FL PSC docket at http://www.psc.state.fl.us/dockets/cms/docketdetails.aspx?docket=090009.

For additional information from SACE their challenge of new nuclear reactors in Florida, visit http://www.cleanenergy.org/index.php?/Take-Action.html?form_id=51&item_id=49. # # # Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is a nonprofit organization that promotes responsible energy choices that create global warming solutions and ensure clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the Southeast.

For more information, go to: www.cleanenergy.org