The readers’ forum

Nuclear plants benefit Floridians


Susan Clary’s Feb. 11 Other Views column, Stuck with the bill for Florida’s unused nuclear facilities, has it all backwards. It’s the benefits of nuclear power that have stuck firmly for Florida.

Clary claimed that costs for nuclear plants have been approved “with no guarantee that they would ever be built.” Actually, 90 percent of all costs authorized for new nuclear plants in the past four years have been for Extended Power Uprates (EPUs) that have already been constructed thus increasing the output of existing nuclear power plants by about 500 megawatts. This is equivalent to a medium-size power plant without having to build one. Those uprate projects saved ratepayers the cost of fossil fuel that otherwise would have cost about $3.8 billion.

Florida’s law allows the Public Service Commission to hold cost recovery hearings as the costs are incurred rather than forcing ratepayers to absorb unnecessary interest charges if cost recovery hearings were delayed until the end of construction. This saves ratepayers about $2 billion for a two-unit nuclear plant. Repealing this law would be the real tax that we would be stuck with.

Finally, each of the recent EPU projects produced almost 4,000 temporary skilled jobs and many new full-time jobs for Floridians after completion. There’s another benefit that Florida’s economy was stuck with.

If Florida moves forward with the proposed new nuclear plants at Turkey Point, we will get thousands of additional jobs for each project. Each of Florida’s existing nuclear plants generate $70 to $90 million in annual salaries and $15 to $20 million in annual tax revenue. We can multiply those benefits by the number of new nuclear plants our state builds over the next couple decades. We’ll also get cost savings of about $58 billion over the life of each plant due to avoided fossil fuel purchases that ratepayers will not have to pay. We will also get cleaner air resulting from about 250 tons of CO2 that won’t be emitted.

For the past five decades, Florida has had five nuclear reactors reliably providing a huge supply of zero-emission energy. With only a few exceptions, they have operated continuously at high capacity. They have been one of the most cost-effective components of our state’s energy portfolio. As Floridians, we’ve enjoyed these benefits for many years.

Once a new nuclear plant is constructed, it saves money, operates with very low fuel costs and generates massive amounts of electricity continuously without emitting any carbon into the air. These benefits are well worth it.

Jerry Paul, nuclear engineer, Port Charlotte

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