PSC approves nuclear, solar power plants

07/15/08 Seán Kinane
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Today, Florida’s utilities regulatory agency granted Progress Energy unanimous approval for two new nuclear power plants in Levy County. The Public Service Commission (PSC) also granted approval to Florida Power & Light to begin construction of three solar energy centers. If they’re built, the two nuclear plants would be located about 10 miles north of Crystal River.

Cherie Jacobs, spokesperson for Progress Energy Florida, said that the company has not yet made its final decision to build the nuclear power plants. There are still additional regulatory hurdles for the Progress Energy nuclear plants in Levy County, Jacobs said.

Jacobs said the construction costs of the new nuclear plants to Progress Energy’s 1.7 million customers would be $17 billion, which includes the cost of land and transmission lines. That comes to more than $14,000 per customer. Jacobs said one reason Progress Energy is planning nuclear reactors for the Levy County site, as opposed to renewable energies such as solar or wind is that those technologies are intermittent – they do not generate electricity 24 hours per day.

Public Service Commissioner Katrina McMurrian said approving the nuclear plants was not a difficult decision.

“In addition to energy efficiency, conservation, and renewables, investment in nuclear power, in my opinion, is a critical piece of the plan to provide reliable and affordable electricity to consumers over the long term.”

Jacobs said spent nuclear fuel waste would be stored on site at the plants in Levy County, as is currently done at their Crystal River nuclear plant. She said that nuclear energy is environmentally superior to fossil fuels. “There are no greenhouse gas emissions from nuclear power.”

But Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, disagrees, calling that argument “simplistic.”

“While the industry wants you to only focus on one aspect at one point in time, the reality is that … you have the very toxic and radioactive waste that we have no long-term solution for. Nuclear is not clean technology like clean renewable technology such as wind power, solar power, even cleaner bioenergy technology.”

Smith said the cost of constructing nuclear power plants, even though they are heavily subsidized by the government, makes them a poor energy choice.

But the PSC’s other major decision of the day, to approve construction of three solar energy centers by Florida Power & Light, was applauded by Smith.

Mayco Villafana is a spokesperson for Florida Power & Light. “We have two plants that are photovoltaic. They turn light into electricity."

The other photovoltaic plant, Villafana said, will be 10 megawatts in capacity and will be located near the Kennedy Space Center. It will be in operation by the first quarter of 2010. The third plant will generate power from solar in a new way, according to Villafana.

The PSC agreed that the Florida Power proposal meets legislative requirements for full cost recovery. Commissioner Nancy Argenziano said she’s glad to be a part of it.

“I just want to say I’m just thrilled with this project, I think it’s going to be great. It’s about time we really push forward and I wish FPL all the success in the world.”

Florida Public Service Commission

Progress Energy

Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

Florida Power & Light

FP&L’s solar facilities

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