Nuclear plants fees approved

Charges continue for plants that may not be built

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - State regulators approved the continued collection of fees to build new nuclear plants Tuesday, even though they acknowledge rising costs might make construction unfeasible, yet many will be paying less come January.

Duke Energy customers will pay $3.45 a month for the levy plant that has been cancelled. The company continues to pursue a new nuclear license.

In Tallahassee, state regulators have given the okay for power companies to keep charging for nuclear power plants that may never be built.

With record speed, regulators approved Florida Power & Light Company's request to collect over $44 million for nuclear costs next year. Two thirds will go to pay the company back for improvements at its Turkey Point units. The other $16 million will go to pursue licenses for two new plants on the same site.

The plants are expected to cost between $12 billion and $18 billion.

The Public Service Commission acknowledges the cost makes the future construction questionable. But PSC Commissioner Eduardo Balbis said the regulators could always say no later.

"Prior to commencing construction that the utilities have to come before us, before engaging in those expensive activities," Balbis said.

The average customer will see the add-on fee drop from $1.65 a month to 46 cents.

"Our bills today are about 25 percent lower than the national average," FPL Spokesman Mark Bubriski said.

Later this month the PSC will likely approve Duke Energy's settlement with the customer advocate. Public Counsel J.R. Kelly says even though customers will pay hundreds of millions each year for a plant that won't ever be built, settling was a cost saver.

"It'll stop the bleeding," said Kelly.

If FPL eventually decides not to build new nuclear plants, there's no requirement that the company will have to refund the money it collects.

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