Saturday, December 16, 2017
Business

Progress Energy raises price tag, delays start date of Levy nuclear plant

Progress Energy announced Tuesday that it had raised the price tag of a nuclear plant that may never get built, and said it wants customers to pay more for an existing reactor that may never restart.

The cost of the proposed Levy County nuclear plant could reach as high as $24 billion, up from the last estimate of $22.4 billion. And the utility said it would delay when the plant comes online from 2021 to 2024 — eight years after its original projected date of 2016.

Progress' 1.6 million Florida customers already are paying $1.1 billion toward the Levy project, though the utility has not made a final decision whether to build the plant. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission must first approve its license, a process that is not expected to be completed until sometime before 2014. Progress says it will then decide whether to proceed with the project.

Critics of the Levy nuclear plant say Progress' announcement signals that it is becoming more likely that the Levy project will never get built, even if the license is approved.

Susan Glickman of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, which opposes the Levy project and pushes for alternative energy, said someone needs to put an end to what appears to be an unbridled spending of customers' money by Florida utilities.

"We need a hall monitor to say this doesn't make sense," Glickman said, "whether it's the speaker of the (Florida) House, the president of the Senate or the governor."

Progress announced the changes to the cost and schedule for the proposed Levy project in a statement Tuesday about its plans for nuclear power in Florida.

In addition to the changes to the Levy project, Progress wants the state to approve an increase in the amount it collects from its customers for its Crystal River nuclear plant, which has been offline since October 2009.

During an upgrade and maintenance project, the 42-inch-thick concrete containment building cracked. The utility has struggled to repair its only existing nuclear plant in Florida ever since.

Progress wants the state Public Service Commission to approve $49 million for expenses related to attempting to increase the amount of power the Crystal River nuclear plant produces. None of that money is related to repairing the plant.

If approved, that $49 million would reduce the benefit of a $288 million refund Progress agreed to pay customers as part of a settlement over the broken Crystal River plant. The PSC's staff expected such a request — only a bit higher.

It is still too early to know exactly what rates will be for next year. Based on Progress' request, customers could see their bills increase from $123.19 per 1,000 kilowatts of usage to about $127.68, subject to adjustments for fuel costs. That's significantly more than what is charged by the two other major Florida utilities: Florida Power & Light, $94.62 per 1,000 kilowatt hours, and Tampa Electric at $106.90.

Progress insists that it plans to bring the Crystal River nuclear plant back online and build the Levy project, despite critics who say completing either project is becoming increasingly unlikely because of cost and the burden they are placing on customers to pay for it all.

For example, early estimates in 2006 indicated the Levy project would cost $4 billion to $6 billion with start-up in 2016. The cost changed in 2007 to $10 billion and in 2008 to $17 billion. In 2011 it reached $22.4 billion with start-up in 2021.

Now it's up to $24 billion with it going online in 2024 for the first of the two reactors and the second 18 months later.

"Nuclear power remains a key component of Progress Energy's balanced solution strategy to meet our customers' future energy needs with efficient, carbon-free electricity," Vincent Dolan, president and chief executive officer of Progress Energy Florida, said in Tuesday's announcement.

The PSC is expected to review Progress' filing during its annual Nuclear Cost Recovery Clause in August.

Charles Rehwinkel, deputy state public counsel, who represents consumers before the PSC, said efforts to stop charges related to the Levy project have been rebuffed by the commissioners. Rehwinkel argued to the PSC last summer that the plant would not come online until well after 2021, but commissioners ignored him.

The requested Crystal River charges, Rehwinkel said, are more difficult to counter because state law allows Progress to recover such expenses.

"The costs that Progress is including for (Crystal River) are costs the statute appears to authorize," Rehwinkel said. "On one hand, though, it appears that customers are being asked to pay for a plant that's not running."

Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer who testifies before state public service commissions about nuclear plants, said Progress' plan makes "no economic sense."

"The amount is so freaking huge that having a license really isn't going to matter," Gundersen said. "It's breathtaking."

Ivan Penn can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2332.

Comments
Fueled by indulgence and machismo, restaurants are a hotbed for sexual harassment

Fueled by indulgence and machismo, restaurants are a hotbed for sexual harassment

When Brenda Terry was 16 and living in St. Louis, she was a hostess and food runner at a sports bar where female employees wore cute, little cheerleading skirts. One night, she said, a patron grabbed her crotch. She ran to her management team and the...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Pigs can be therapy animals too. So can horses and rats and cats and llamas and … (w/video)

Pigs can be therapy animals too. So can horses and rats and cats and llamas and … (w/video)

Shrieks of laughter echoed off the walls of the hospital as Thunder the mini pig flopped onto his side and the children huddled around him, scratching his pink, hairy belly. He and his wet-nosed partner, Bolt, drew patients in wheelchairs and bandage...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Vology landlord challenges property tax assessment

Vology landlord challenges property tax assessment

LARGO — Eight months after paying $10.15 million for the office building that houses IT services company Vology, a New York company is suing the Pinellas County Property Appraiser and Florida Department of Revenue contending its $5.5 million tax asse...
Published: 12/15/17
Taxpayer subsidies of Tampa golf courses are on the rise as struggles continue

Taxpayer subsidies of Tampa golf courses are on the rise as struggles continue

TAMPA — For the half of the year that Harry Nichols lives in Oldsmar, he plays 18 holes several times a month at Rocky Point Golf Course. On a good day, Nichols said he shoots close to par on the Dana Shores course. And if he’s really lucky, it’ll on...
Published: 12/15/17
Florida’s $1.1 billion Hardest Hit Fund winding down after some hard knocks

Florida’s $1.1 billion Hardest Hit Fund winding down after some hard knocks

In 2010, Florida was in the throes of an unprecedented housing crisis. One in every eight homes was in some stage of foreclosure. Today, the foreclosure rate is one in every 83. Because of that enormous drop, Florida’s Hardest Hit Fund will s...
Published: 12/15/17
Report: Rich will get still richer unless policies change

Report: Rich will get still richer unless policies change

By ELAINE KURTENBACHTOKYO — Global inequality has stabilized at high levels in recent years, a report said Friday, despite gains among the poor in China and much milder disparities in incomes and wealth in Western Europe. The World Inequality Report ...
Published: 12/15/17
How the Disney/Fox deal will shake up Hollywood

How the Disney/Fox deal will shake up Hollywood

Associated Press NEW YORK — After years of tremors, the earthquake that had long been predicted finally shook Hollywood. Disney’s deal to purchase most of 21st Century Fox ends the era of the "Big Six" major movie studios, toppling one ...
Published: 12/15/17
St. Petersburg’s Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement set to be complete in 2019

St. Petersburg’s Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement set to be complete in 2019

ST. PETERSBURG — The Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, under construction since 2015, is scheduled to be complete by the summer of 2019.The five-story, 137,100-square-foot building will house businessman and collector Rudy Ciccarello’s...
Published: 12/15/17
Obamacare enrollment ends today, but some can get an extension

Obamacare enrollment ends today, but some can get an extension

Today is the day that open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act will close for most people. But those affected by the slew of hurricanes that pummelled Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and other states earlier this year can take advantage of a two-week ...
Published: 12/15/17
Pack your bags: 107.3M Americans to set holiday traveling record

Pack your bags: 107.3M Americans to set holiday traveling record

A record-breaking number of Americans are expected to travel this holiday season.The American Automobile Association projects that 107.3 million Americans will pack their bags and travel more than 50 miles by planes, trains, automobiles and other mod...
Published: 12/14/17