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Lawmaker joins calls for repeal of nuclear advance fee with new bill

Published Jan. 24, 2015

State Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, this week filed legislation to repeal the so-called nuclear advance fee that allowed Duke Energy Florida and Florida Power & Light to collect money from their customers before new plants come online.

Ahern's legislation is the third bill filed for the 2015 session aimed at ending the fee. The measure largely targets Duke Energy over its troubled nuclear operations detailed in reports by the Tampa Bay Times.

Duke used the advance fee to charge its Florida customers about $1.5 billion for the now-canceled Levy County nuclear project. In addition, the utility spent hundreds of millions of dollars more through the advance fee to increase power at the broken and now shuttered Crystal River nuclear plant. Neither Levy nor Crystal River will ever produce a kilowatt of electricity for the money.

"The consumers are being taken advantage of by utility providers," Ahern said. "We need to take precautions to ensure that these types of events don't happen again."

FPL has had greater success with the fee, tapping it for upgrades at its St. Lucie and Turkey Point nuclear facilities. But some question whether one of the two St. Lucie nuclear units will reach the end of its current license because of unusual steam generator tube wear, detailed in Times reports.

If the St. Lucie Unit 2 steam generators do not make it to the end of the license, customers will have paid in advance for an upgrade for which they might not get full benefit.

Lawmakers created the nuclear advance fee in 2006 to hasten construction of new nuclear projects and provide some diversity of electricity fuel sources. Almost 70 percent of Florida's electricity generation comes from natural gas.

Ahern's bill is in addition to similar legislation filed by Rep. Amanda Murphy, D-New Port Richey, and Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, as well as a bill filed by Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel-Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee.

The Murphy and Latvala bill would also require Duke Energy to refund all or most of the money collected from its customers through the advance fee.

Contact Ivan Penn at ipenn@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2332. Follow @Consumers_Edge.

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