NUCLEAR THE WAY FORWARD SAYS PROGRESS ENERGY CHIEF by Roxanne Escobales01/16/07
WMNF Drive-Time News Monday
Progress Energy holds a powerful position in Florida -- it provides electricity to over half of the state’s counties. And every year the electric company adds 30-thousand new customers. That’s why the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club, which normally invites political speakers to its luncheons, instead gave the floor to Progress Energy president and CEO Jeff Lyash. He says energy drives the economy and our personal lives. But ultimately, it’s the customers and not the energy providers that shape the future.
ACT: “have any of you seen one of these?”
By every guest’s plate, Lyash had provided a Philips Marathon 15-watt energy saving lightbulb. It uses on-sixth the energy to shine as brightly as a regular 60-watt bulb.
Lyash said that if every one of his customers replaced six regular bulbs with energy-saving ones, they would collectively save 32 million dollars in a year. And he came to a conclusion that may seem unusual for a company that makes money from people flipping on lights.
Lyash says customers’ concern about the environment has become one of Progress Energy’s top four issues. Another one is the rapid growth in the state -- and the corresponding growth in consumption.
Also on the list is how customers expect to use electricity, as well as fuel prices. Lyash said the basic rate has not risen since 1980, but the price of fuel has.
According to Lyash, renewable energy cannot keep up with demand.
All this set the scene for Lyash to push nuclear energy as the way forward. Last month, Progress Energy announced it bought 3-thousand acres of land in Levy County with plans to build a nuclear power plant there, 8 miles from the Crystal River nuclear plant. These power stations cost the most money and take the longest to build, but they are cheaper and cleaner to run.
Questions from the floor focused on nuclear power safety. One member asked how the company could insure another tragedy in line with Three Mile Island or Chernobyl would not happen. Lyash says compared to other energy-related disasters, nuclear has a “quite incredible” safety record. Why doesn’t the federal government have a nuclear power program? Lyash says it has and will do more with recent legislation. And, what about the waste? He said all of America’s nuclear waste from power plants would take up a football field.
According to Lyash, the only form of energy production cheaper than nuclear is hydrology – converting water power into electricity. Which may lead Floridians to wonder why the state’s most abundant resource is not being used more.
If the Levy County nuclear power plant goes ahead according to schedule, it would create enough electricity to supply 700-hundred-thousand homes.