FPL customers may be charged to fund new Turkey Point reactors
By Lou Ortiz
Florida Power & Light customers will likely finance for the next 12 years construction of the utility's plans to build two new nuclear reactors at Turkey Point.
Those monthly payments of up to $6 per month could begin as early as next year, depending on approval by the state's Public Service Commission, FPL officials said.
The utility cleared a big hurdle last week when the state commission approved the $12 billion to $24 billion project to build the new reactors.
The commission is expected to take up what customers would pay in late spring this year.
The rate would be based on what FPL will spend on the project, which is expected to be completed in 2021, if all approvals are secured by the utility, said FPL spokesman Mayco Villafana.
"The highest amount customers will pay throughout this project is less than $6" per month for the construction period, he said.
In December, Miami-Dade County commissioners approved FPL's expansion, despite environmental concerns.
The project still requires the approval, in part, of the state's Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and his cabinet also get to vote on the project. Gov. Crist is on the side of the Public Service Commission.
"I applaud the Public Service Commission for securing Florida's energy future by taking a major step toward increasing our use of nuclear power," the governor said in a statement on March 18, when the state commission issued its approval.
Mr. Villafana said all of the county's concerns would be answered and the public will be heard at the various agencies as the utility goes through the permitting process.
The Development Impact Community, a seven-member panel comprised of Miami-Dade staff, has tied numerous conditions to FPL's plans.
They include not allowing FPL to draw water from the Biscayne Aquifer, requiring a wastewater discharge plan, and preserving wildlife habitats.
Environmental groups say they fear harm to mangroves, wetlands, native birds and animals — such as the Florida panther, crocodiles and woodstorks — and question where FPL would get the 30 million to 90 million gallons of water the plant would need daily to operate.
"The county issues will be reviewed and answered," Mr. Villafana said.
He added that FPL is currently deciding on one of two technologies for the proposed expansion.
One option includes two reactors with a total of 2200 megawatts of power, and the other would be comprised of two reactors with 3040 megawatts.
The technology with the lower megawatts will cost $12 billion to $18 billion, and the other $16 billion to $24 billion.
"That decision has not been made yet," Mr. Villafana said. "It will be made this year."
"Once it's built," he said. "It will be a tremendous savings in fuel."
If the utility had opted to build a fossil-fuel or natural gas plant "there wouldn't be a savings," Mr. Villafana said, because of the price volatility of those fuels.
FPL estimates that the project will create more than 3,000 construction jobs.
If completed, the 12-year project would generate $135 million a year in property taxes and hundreds of permanent high-wage jobs, besides serving the growing energy needs of 35 counties in the state, the utility said.
FPL said the company needs the new plant because 85,000 new customers are being added yearly to its list of 4.3 million, and consumption has increased 30% over the past 20 years among its current customers.
The last nuclear plant to be built in the US was the Watt's Bar reactor near Spring City, TN., which opened in May 1996 and is operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority.
There are 104 commercial nuclear plants in 31 states licensed by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, according to federal statistics.