Florida approves FPL plan for two more reactors

19 March 2008

The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) has approved plans by Florida Power & Light (FPL) to construct two more nuclear power reactors at its Turkey Point plant in the south of the state.

Turkey Point 

Turkey Point (Image: FPL)

FPL is pursuing the option for the construction of two advanced-design reactors at Turkey Point that would a combined capacity of between 2200 MW and 3000 MW. The company said that, if built, the units - designated Turkey Point units 6 and 7 -would enter operation in 2018 and 2020. FPL currently operates two nuclear reactors at Turkey Point, in addition to two gas and oil units and one natural gas unit. The company filed its plans with the PSC in October 2007.

The company said that it must increase its electricity generating capacity by almost one-third, some 8350 MW, to meet projected growth in demand between 2011 and 2020. In addition to help meet some of this demand, the two new reactors at Turkey Point would diversify FPL's fuel mix, which currently consists of 50% natural gas. In addition to the two proposed reactors, the company plans to increase capacity at its existing reactors, expand natural gas combined cycle capacity, increase renewable generation and implement demand-side management programmes.

On 18 March, the PSC approved the additional nuclear plants and specifically agreed that FPL should proceed with making "reservation payments" on a key piece of equipment with long advance ordering requirements.

"Trends indicate there will be a substantial need for more power in FPL's service territory, and these new nuclear units can help meet that need," said PSC chairman Matthew M. Carter. He added, "The nuclear units will provide a clean, non-carbon emitting source of base-load power to meet Florida's growing energy needs."

FPL president Armando Olivera said: "This is a crucial first step toward securing Florida's future with additional energy that is safe, reliable, cost-efficient and clean. Additional nuclear generation will help us achieve Governor Crist's goal of reducing the carbon emissions that scientists have determined contribute to climate change, and will protect customers from supply disruptions and unpredictable prices that can result from being too dependent on a single fuel source."

However, FPL said that the PSC's approval of the plan "represents one step in a process that will take ten years or more." The company said in a statement that "before FPL makes a final decision to build these nuclear units, it will be involved in wide-ranging discussions and consultations with local residents and governments and must obtain approvals from several state and federal agencies." Final official state approval of the project must be given by the governor and his cabinet.

The next steps for FPL will be the filing of a Site Certification Application with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and a Combined Operating Licence (COL) application with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). FPL informed the NRC in 2006 that it intended to file an application for a COL for two new units at Turkey Point.

If FPL decides to proceed with the two new units, its customers will start to see increases in their electricity bills to pay for their construction. Company spokesman Mayco Villafana told the Associated Press that the total cost of the project would be between $12 billion and $24 billion, depending on the technology used. He said that at the height of construction, expected in 2017, customers would see no more than $6 per month added to their bill. However, Villafana added, once the reactors are in operation, the fuel savings would be about $1 billion per year, which would also be passed on to customers.

Last year, Florida regulators turned down FPL's request to construct a new coal-burning plant in South Florida. The regulatory panel said then that the costs for coal plants in the future were not certain because of the prospect of additional emissions requirements that might be enacted in the future.