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State regulators grapple with Florida Power & Light nuclear plans

With Florida Power & Light saying it expects to “pause” the project, state regulators next month will wade into a dispute about how to handle the utility’s long-discussed plans to add two nuclear reactors in Miami-Dade County.

The dispute, detailed in documents filed last week at the Florida Public Service Commission, pits FPL against consumer representatives, the city of Miami and business and environmental groups.

At least in part, it involves an FPL strategy to continue pursuing a crucial license for the reactors and then pausing for what could be years before making decisions about whether to move forward with the project. The utility is asking the Public Service Commission to allow it to recoup costs from customers in the future for the licensing and other expenses.

But opponents of the request argue FPL has not submitted a needed study that would show whether the nuclear project is feasible. They say the utility should not be given approval to continue adding millions of dollars in costs and billing customers later.

In a document filed last week with the Public Service Commission, FPL said its request would effectively suspend costs that customers might otherwise have to pay next year and would temporarily eliminate the need for annual regulatory hearings on the project. FPL also is watching nuclear projects in Georgia and South Carolina as it prepares to make decisions about the planned reactors at the Turkey Point complex in Miami-Dade.

“FPL’s proposal is particularly appropriate given the stage of the project: FPL is completing its licensing activities and entering a period of reduced spending while FPL `pauses’ to maintain the approvals it has received and observe the progress being made, and issues being faced, at other new nuclear construction projects,” the filing said.

But opponents question whether FPL will ever build the reactors and say customers should not face the prospect of added costs.

“FPL’ s position begs a basic policy question: If FPL cannot produce a feasibility analysis showing that pursuing the reactors makes economic sense for customers, why would the (Public Service) Commission saddle customers with more risk and costs?” said a document filed last week by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, one of the opposition groups.

The issue is rooted in a 2006 state law that was designed to encourage the development of nuclear power in Florida. That controversial law allowed utilities to incrementally collect money from customers for costly nuclear projects, rather than recouping project costs after reactors start operating.

Read full article at Orlando Weekly