Nuclear power: Florida Power & Light, Progress Energy charge for plants that have not been built

Florida Supreme Court will decide if it's legal

Since 2009 Florida Power and Light and Progress Energy customers have paid for two nuclear power plants yet to be built.  A 2006 law allows companies to charge customers more than a decade before the plants produce one watt of electricity.

The legality of the law was challenged in the state's highest court Thursday.  A lawyer for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy told the court, the plants will never be built. 

"The argument is these utilities don't intend to build, they have not demonstrated the intent to build," said Gary Davis with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Attorneys for the power companies say they will build the plants as soon as they finish the permitting process. 

"It's incredible how difficult it is to get a COL (Combined Operating License)," said Steven Grimes with Progress Energy.

"We spent 27 million dollars just on licensing," said Raoul Cantero with FPL.

Customers have already paid an estimated one billion dollars.  The companies say the plants will be built around 2022.
The amount customers are charged changes from year to year, but right now the average Progress customer is paying $3.00 a month. FPL customers pay $2.20.

Some of the money has already been used to repair old plants.  FPL says the savings are already showing up in bills.
"Customers are already saving money for the vast majority of what's been approved," Cantero said.

But consumer advocates says the power companies are making the most off the deal and if it goes sour they can walk away and the customers won't be refunded.

By the end of the year FPL says repairs made to old plants with part of the nuclear cost recovery money they've collected will save their customers an estimated 7.8 million dollars a month.

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