The readers’ forum

Nuclear cost recovery is bad for our cities

 

There have been a lot of stories lately about how utilities such as Florida Power & Light benefit from the Nuclear Cost Recovery Clause.

This law, passed by the Florida Legislature in 2006, allows power companies to charge customers for preconstruction costs associated with building nuclear reactors, even if the reactors are never built. We’ve heard the utilities’ self-serving justification of this public subsidy for its private-sector business and we’ve heard from consumer advocates who are furious about shifting the costs and risks from the utilities to the Florida residents who are their customers.

It’s also important for Florida’s cities to weigh in on this issue. In South Florida, many of our cities’ residents are still struggling with the long-term effects the recession has had on their incomes and their home values. All levels of government should be identifying the most advantageous ways to spur economic growth. It is unacceptable to transfer an investor-owned company’s business-development costs to our residents, who would, if the reactor ever is built, pay for the energy it produces every month in their utility bills.

Prior to this law, a power company’s shareholders bore the risk of nuclear power plant development because they are the ones who benefit if the utility is profitable. Power companies could not charge customers until the plants began delivering power. Utilities absorbed the loss when they walked away from a project. Now they can abandon ill-conceived nuclear plants and shoulder none of the cost.

In November 2012, Florida’s Public Service Commission approved almost $300 million in advance nuclear costs for FPL and Progress Energy, beyond the more than $1 billion in cost recovery that already had been approved in the past.

That money would be much more productive if it stayed in our residents’ pockets. At a time when many people are struggling to make ends meet, our cities have much to gain from the elimination of extra utility taxes for nuclear plants that might never be built.

Roseanne Minnet, mayor, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea

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