Cabinet okays Progress Energy nuclear plant, first since 1976
The Florida Cabinet just approved Progress Energy’s controversial proposal to build a nuclear plant in Levy County, the first such plant approved in Florida in 33 years.
The vote by Gov. Charlie Crist, Attorney General Bill McCollum and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink comes as Progress seeks to raise its base rates by 30 percent to pay for the nuclear plant, which would not be up and running until at least 2018.
“I want to commend Progress for this initiative,” McCollum said. “It’s a very, very important project.”
Crist, who has been pushing for a stronger renewable and clean energy plan for Florida, lauded the clean energy and “diversification of energy” the plant will produce. He also is enthusiastic about jobs to be created with the plant’s construction and operation -- as many as 5,000 short- and long-term, by Progress’ estimate.
Progress officials hailed the plant as a major step toward that clean energy future, and they insist the plant will result over time in cost savings for customers. They did not mention the rate increases they are seeking now from customers who would not see the nuclear plant up and running for another decade.
“This will save customers approximately $1 billion a year by lowering fuel costs,” said Jeff Lyash, executive vice president for Progress. “This is an important part of Florida’s energy future.”
Critics, several of whom showed up at the Capitol to protest the vote and complain about “corporate greed,” question the safety of the plant and its impact on wetlands on and surrounding the 5,000-acre site north of the town of Inglis.
“I’m concerned about the time it is going to take to build this plant. I am concerned about the danger and about the legacy we are leaving to our children,” said state Rep. Michelle Rehwinkle-Vasilinda. “We are leaving a legacy of waste. It is not truly clean. There is waste, and it has to be permanently disposed. We have not figured out how to do that, and I am concerned.”