Florida Power & Light received pushback Tuesday from South Florida officials and other critics as it requested $34.2 million from customers to continue planning a pair of nuclear reactors at its Turkey Point complex in Miami-Dade County.
The request, if approved by the Florida Public Service Commission in October, would place the cost for new nuclear power at 34 cents on a typical residential customer's monthly bill in 2016.
Jessica Cano, an FPL lawyer, told the commission during the opening of what is expected to be two days of hearings in Tallahassee that the request for funding through the state's nuclear-cost recovery law would allow the company to secure needed licenses and permits for the reactors.
"FPL has not begun pre-construction work. It intends to seek approval from this commission in 2016 to begin pre-construction work in 2017, upon receipt of its combined license," Cano said.
FPL contends the proposal will further diversify the company's fuel sources, reduce carbon dioxide and other emissions and increase the reliability of the overall system, which serves 4.8 million customers in Florida.
The company has asserted that the reactors will save customers $12 billion over a projected 60-year life.
But critics, including Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, countered that the commission should reject the request because they don't believe the project, even if eventually completed, is economically viable for ratepayers.
Rodriguez also argued that FPL's plan doesn't adequately address storm surge and sea-level increases or the economic impact to South Florida's drinking water supply.
"We're talking about plans that have to account for a span of 70 years from now," Rodriguez told the commission. "It is completely unrealistic to rely on one foot of sea-level rise adjustment that we'll need to make at Turkey Point."
The reactors, projected to eventually cost $13.7 billion to $20 billion, await approval of a combined operating license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The licenses are anticipated to be awarded in 2017. The reactors are projected to be completed by 2027 and 2028.
Patricia Ann Christensen, an attorney with the state Office of Public Counsel, which represents consumers, argued that an FPL feasibility study is flawed. She said, in part, it uses data that is six years old.
"The cost inputs being utilized by FPL need to be updated to use the best current information available for the feasibility analysis, especially before seeking commission approval to begin the pre-construction phase," Christensen said.
Attorney Jon Moyle, representing the Florida Industrial Power Users Group, noted that a year ago FPL had projected the reactors would cost between $12.62 billion and $18.42 billion.
Moyle noted that his group of large electricity users supports reasonably priced nuclear energy but equated the increasing cost projections to a frog slowly cooking on a stove.
"If you look at the track record of the nuclear project from the beginning until now … it started out it was tepid. It's getting turned up, getting turned up, it's starting to get warm," Moyle said. "We're hoping that the commission will exercise its duties and responsibilities, as this conversation continues, as the heat continues, and make sure the ratepayers of Florida don't get cooked."
George Cavros, representing the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, an environmental group, claimed the escalating costs would have kept the nuclear plans from advancing in a competitive market. And Cavros added that many of the company's current customers won't see the projected savings from the reactors.
"There are counties that Florida Power & Light serves within its service area where almost half the population is almost 45 years or older," Cavros said. "
Plans for the reactors have already drawn about $250 million in pre-construction charges through a controversial 2006 law that legislators modified, but kept alive, in 2013.