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The Real Target at St. Lucie: Florida's Nuclear Cost-Recovery Law

Dennis Spurgeon
Over the past week, we've seen a spate of media activity concerning the safety of the steam generators at St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant. Despite the fact that the NRC has said that St. Lucie is safe, anti-nuclear activists are getting plenty of mileage in the local media over charges that don't hold any weight. In fact, anyone with any operating or regulatory experience says this story is complete bunk.

You can add former Department of Energy assistant secretary Dennis Spurgeon to that list. Today over at, he's wondering out loud about the why behind all of this coverage. Though the text is behind a pay wall, we've excerpted this relevant passage:
Before repeating the Times' story, shouldn't this newspaper have looked into why such a biased hit piece was written in the first place? Is it an attempt to discredit the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant because its successful power upgrade (retrofit) has demonstrated that Florida's pay-as-you-go financing (also known as nuclear cost recovery) can work well and save millions of dollars in unnecessary financing costs for customers?

Anti-nuclear activists, along with the Times, oppose this method of paying for new plants and retorfits. Are they trying to spruce up their arguments by adding a safety component?
The stakes in Florida are very high, as our Richard Myers explained in a letter to the editor at the Tampa Bay Times in May 2013. With its nuclear cost recovery law in place, Florida is able to avoid the trap that would be created by loading up its electric portfolio with too much natural gas:
In 2012, Florida generated 68 percent of its electricity from natural gas, a significant increase from 47 percent in 2008. Floridians may recall that in 2008 and 2009, the state endured its highest-ever electricity costs when natural gas prices were hitting all-time highs. Five years later, Florida relies even more on natural gas.

Just like a diversified financial portfolio is important for investors, so is a diversified energy portfolio for consumers. By relying ever more heavily on natural gas, Florida is putting itself in an increasingly vulnerable position if and when natural gas prices change.
For more on the attacks in Florida on cost recovery by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, see our blog post from December 2012. It's a story we've been covering since 2009.


Joris van Dorp said…
Thanks for covering this kind of thing. Evidently, the public is being led like lambs to the slaughter by malafide anti-nuke interests. This blog provides coverage of the other side of the story. Keep it up. Eventually, debates over contentious issues like nuclear can and are won on the strength of arguments, although before the win is secured much misunderstanding and obfuscation is to be endured. The danger is that the side which has the truth in its corner gives up prematurely. I hope that does not happen.

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