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Florida regulators approve nuclear power rates

Associated Press Modified: November 26, 2012 at 4:45 pm •  Published: November 26, 2012

Commissioner Julie Imanuel Brown said she's sympathetic to the argument "that those who are paying today may not even be around to receive the cost benefits."

The utilities, though, contend nuclear power saves money for consumers in the long run because of low fuel expenses despite its high construction costs.

That equation, though, has been disrupted in the last few years due to a decline in natural gas prices. Commissioner Eduardo Balbis said if history is any indicator, it's unlikely gas prices will remain that low "so that does give me some comfort."

Public Counsel J.R. Kelly, the state's consumer advocate, objected only to portions of the utilities' requests. Kelly lost his argument that FPL shouldn't be allowed to combine the costs of upgrades to existing reactors at its St. Lucie and Turkey Point plants because of high cost overruns — $500 million in the past year alone — at the latter. Kelly contended they should be considered separately so the Turkey Point costs could be challenged.

The commission deferred 2012 and 2013 costs related to Progress' crippled Crystal River reactor but also rejected Kelly's argument to do the same for 2011. The Progress pass-on includes $3.45 per 1,000 kilowatt hours for a proposed Levy County plant as called for in a February settlement between the utility and most consumer advocates including Kelly.

Juno Beach-based FPL serves 4.5 million homes, businesses and other customers in South Florida and along the state's east coast.

Progress, headquartered in St. Petersburg and owned by North Carolina-based Duke Energy, has more than 1.6 million customers in central and north Florida.