PSC approves need for nuke plants

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By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

The public's opportunity to give the Levy County Commission their opinion on the proposed Progress Energy two-unit nuclear plant near Inglis will come at an informational hearing at 7 p.m. on August 7 in the Levy County Courthouse courtroom.

The hearing, required as part of the plant's application process, would be the only one held by the Commission.

County Attorney Anne Brown told the Commission in its regular meeting on July 8 that the meeting with representatives of the state Department of Environmental Protection and Progress Energy on hand, is "to have you gather information to give the state."

The deadline for holding the meeting is August 11, Brown told the board as she also presented them with a 7-page list of deadlines to be met in the site application process.

The meeting has been set for the evening, not only to accommodate a conflict with Commissioner Nancy Bell's schedule, but as Commissioner Lilly Rooks, said, "it's important to have at night" for the convenience of folks who must work during the day.

On Tuesday the Florida Public Service Commission unanimously voted to affirm the need for the two nuclear plant units. The vote does not give the go-ahead for the plant's construction, but sets events in motion for possible approval of construction in early 2009.

Progress Energy has purchased about 5,100 acres in the southern part of the county. The company says if the units are built they would generate about 800 full time, high paying positions and generate another 1,000 to 2,000 indirect positions, while also creating as many as 3,000 jobs during construction.

The next steps, besides the informational meeting held by the county, include filing to recover the costs of the facility from customers with the Florida PSC and the filing of an operating license with the federal Regulatory Commission later this summer.

The average customer cost increase is estimated to be between 3-4 percent from 2009 to 2018, according to a company press release.

If the plants move forward without delay they would be in operation in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

Total cost for the project is $14 billion for the two units, including the nuclear fuel, and $3 billion for the 200 miles of transmission lines and equipment.

Progress says the new plant is needed because, despite the economic downturn, the region served by the company is one of the fastest growing in the country. Since the company's units at Crystal River came on line in the 1970s, the company's customer base has doubled.

The company says Florida ranks third in the nation in per capita energy consumption. Homes have grown larger by 50 percent in the past 30 years, while consuming 30 percent more energy.