Possible North Escambia Gulf Power Nuclear Plant Faces Fight

November 11, 2011

powerplantland.jpg

In a move spurring a regulatory fight, Gulf Power Company is seeking to collect millions of dollars from customers for a possible nuclear-power project in North Escambia.

By 2012, Gulf Power expects to finish buying 4,000 acres of land near McDavid that could eventually be home to a nuclear plant or perhaps another type of power plant.

But with state regulators scheduled to hold a hearing next month about a Gulf Power request to raise base electric rates by $93.5 million, attorneys for consumers and business groups are trying to block part of the proposal dealing with the potential nuclear site.

State Public Counsel J.R. Kelly, whose office represents consumers in utility issues, said Gulf Power does not know how it will use the site and has not gone through a regulatory process aimed at determining whether the utility has a need for another power plant.

“Bottom line, from our standpoint, is it’s so speculative,” Kelly said Thursday.

But Gulf Power spokesman Jeff Rogers said the company knows it will eventually need the land. He said the company is keeping its “options open” until forecasts show a need for developing a power plant, which could be nuclear, gas-powered or some other type of facility.

“You can’t meet the need without the very first thing in place, and that’s the property, the land,” Rogers said.

The possibility of Gulf Power pursuing a North Escambia nuclear project has drawn little statewide attention since it first became public in a NorthEscambia.com story. That is unlike plans by Florida Power & Light and Progress Energy Florida to build nuclear reactors in Miami-Dade and Levy counties. FPL and Progress are far ahead in their plans, including passing along hundreds of millions of dollars in project-related costs to customers.

nukedistance.jpgBut rate-case documents indicate Gulf Power started considering a nuclear project in 2007, after former Gov. Charlie Crist issued executive orders designed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants.

Also, in 2006, the Legislature approved a law that makes it easier for utilities to recoup money from customers as nuclear projects are being developed. Lawmakers hoped the law would encourage building more nuclear plants.

The rate-case documents say Gulf Power considered more than two dozen potential sites in Northwest Florida before settling in 2008 on what is known as the North Escambia site that is bordered roughly by Bratt Road, Cox Road, Byrneville Road and Highway 29. The site is along the Escambia River, which could provide a crucial water source for a power plant, and has been owned largely by timber companies.

Crist’s push to limit emissions from facilities such as coal-fired plants has stalled in the Legislature. Also, the state’s economic woes have slowed Gulf Power’s expected growth in customer demand for electricity.

Pointing to such changes, Gulf Power official Rhonda Alexander said in written testimony that the company decided to defer moving forward with trying to get a license and permits for a nuclear-power plant. But she said it still needed to buy the land.

“Gulf had learned from its extensive site investigation that there was only one acceptable nuclear plant site in Northwest Florida,” said Alexander, who served as nuclear development manager from 2008 to 2010. “If Gulf was going to preserve the nuclear option for its customers, the North Escambia site needed to be secured by Gulf. If Gulf lost the ability to use that site, it would be precluded from building nuclear in the future.”

Gulf estimates costs related to investigating, buying and financing the site at $27.7 million. It is asking the Public Service Commission to build those costs into the utility’s rate base, which would lead to recouping the money from customers over time.

The impact on customer bills would be relatively small, totaling about $3.1 million a year, according to the company. For a residential customer who uses 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a month — a common measurement — that would translate into an increase of 26 cents.

But the Office of Public Counsel and other parties involved in the case, such as the Florida Retail Federation and the Florida Industrial Power Users Group, say Gulf Power shouldn’t be allowed to recoup the money through base rates.

Consultant Helmuth Schultz, a witness for the Office of Public Counsel, filed written testimony describing the proposal as “speculative overreaching.” In part, he said Gulf Power has not shown a need for adding a nuclear plant.

“Gulf has presented no basis on which the commission could conclude that this site could ever be used cost-effectively to benefit Gulf ratepayers,” Schultz said.

Pictured top: One of the first pieces of property purchased by Gulf Power Company for a possible North Escambia nuclear power plant. NorthEscambia.com file photo, click to enlarge.


Comments

27 Responses to “Possible North Escambia Gulf Power Nuclear Plant Faces Fight”

  1. GoNuke on December 1st, 2011 7:43 am

    I find some of the responses here rather amusing. I spent a year living in Pensacola when I was stationed there with the Navy. The area is in need of some new business. Having worked in both Navy and civilian nuclear power I assure you that your fears of three eyed fish, meltdowns, and radiation are completely unfounded. People talk of major nuclear accidents, Fukushima, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, as a reason to not have nuclear power at their back door. What I think is something that most people fail to realize is that these plants were all built 30 years ago or more. The advancements in technology, redundant safety systems, and even completely passive safety systems over that time period has been rather large. Southern Company, Gulf Power’s parent company, is currently constructing the first new nuclear power plant in the United States in Waynesboro, GA. This plant contains safety features such that in the event of an accident, god forbid, it could be completely without operators and still maintain safety and containment of all radioactive elements. Check out http://www.southerncompany.com/nuclearenergy/

  2. Driven on November 17th, 2011 4:43 pm

    “Information is now readily available on the numerous radiation release accidents at land based nuclear powered plants, and on accidents aboard military-naval vessels.”

    I will agree with the accidents on land based nuclear power plants…But I’m 99.99% sure there have never been accidents on a nuclear powered naval ship of the US. And to those on land…only 6 accidents in 60 years? 1 of which(japan) was solely due to an unexpected catastrophic even by mother nature. Seems like a much less chance of an accident than that of a coal/gas based plant. As long as the plants are run to the standards of what the government has in set they will run with no errors and no pollution.

  3. Kent Metcalfe on November 17th, 2011 11:28 am

    The history of mechanical failures, human errors, and natural disasters, causing dozens of serious and catastrophic nuclear accidents (Windscale, UK; Kyshtym, Russia; Three Mile Island, USA; Chernoby, Ukraine; Fukushima, Japan), has proven the risks of operating nuclear power plants are too high.

    Information is now readily available on the numerous radiation release accidents at land based nuclear powered plants, and on accidents aboard military-naval vessels. No reasons given for the use of civilian or military nuclear power generation outweigh the permanent damages to our health, caused by escaped nuclear radiation.

    The nearer we are to the radiation, the more the risk.

    Now that I know Gulf Power is considering building a nuclear powered plant in Escambia County, I will join with others to either persuade the company to choose another power generation method or to prevent a civilian, land based nuclear plant from ever operating on our Gulf Coast.

    Kent Metcalfe

    Mobile, Alabama

  4. Joseph Jones on November 16th, 2011 9:29 pm

    What impact will this have on property value, I have toughed out high property insurance from storms, and loss of value because of foreclosures, now lets put a nuclear power plant in the backyard. Great I am sure this will help with escambia countys great record of water and air quality. At least when I hunt this land now i can see the deer glow in the dark. great job leaders

  5. eab on November 15th, 2011 10:35 pm

    “But Gulf Power spokesman Jeff Rogers said the company knows it will eventually need the land.”

    So, we know a plant of some kind is coming….or maybe they could just fund some public housing there (chuckle).

    Speaking as someone who lives in the area, I would rather have nuclear than coal. Why build something that we “know” kills us instead of something that “may” cause a problem?

    I doubt folks here would want to sit in the dark. And we sure do love those air conditioners at my house. Sorry, we can’t always say “build it somewhere else”.

  6. David Huie Green on November 15th, 2011 9:43 am

    REGARDING:
    “I’m all for nuclear energy but why are our rates being increased to pay for their capitol improvements?”

    Full agreement with you, doesn’t make sense.

    Proposed new motto:
    IF YOU BUILD IT, SOMEONE ELSE WILL PAY FOR IT.

    The concept of Capitalism is use of your own money to produce something which will earn you money in the future. This would be using the money of the expected buyers to pay for it.

    I guess if they gave us shares in The Southern Company, it might make sense.

    David considering economics

  7. JO on November 14th, 2011 12:26 pm

    I’m all for nuclear energy but why are our rates being increased to pay for their capitol improvements? Southern Company’s dividends were $1.87 per share last year, shouldn’t they be reinvesting their profits into their infrastructure?

    http://investor.southerncompany.com/dividends.cfm

  8. anon on November 13th, 2011 1:01 pm

    michelle ware: i’m not trying to be mean when i say this, but that was among the most ignorant comments…

    you people who are against this nuke plant should go do some actual research on the subject instead of watching fox news to hear about what happened in japan and making assumptions based upon that tiny bit of knowledge. aside from the waste, nuclear power is just as clean as solar, wind, hydroelectric, etc.

  9. jeff george on November 13th, 2011 6:48 am

    amen to debugger. this is high level scam,and in tune with todays in your face corruption.

  10. dola on November 12th, 2011 10:29 pm

    !!! BUILD IT !!! WE NEED THE JOBS!!!!

  11. David Huie Green on November 12th, 2011 6:38 pm

    REGARDING:
    “NO NUCLEAR PLANTS ….Our air quality will go to pot….our enviroment will go to pot…”

    but our air would be cleaner with no smoke emissions

    and our dependence on the Middle East would be reduced with less need for fossil fuel,

    and global warming worries would be reduced as CO2 emissions would drop

    and X-rays should be a lot cheaper.

    (besides, my relatives already went to pot years ago; it makes them happy even though a few are paranoid and a few in jail)

    David for reliable power and avoiding pot

  12. Michelle Ware on November 12th, 2011 5:27 pm

    NO NUCLEAR PLANTS ….Our air quality will go to pot….our enviroment will go to pot…

  13. Jo Anne Fillingim on November 12th, 2011 8:24 am

    Go to Wikipedida, the free encyclopedia and type in Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station.

  14. 429SCJ on November 12th, 2011 4:04 am

    I may go apply for a job there, control rods in SLOW, control rods out Fast, I mean how complicated can it be. I do not like the idea of a rate hike, to pay for this thing. I would imagine, with all the red tape, most of us will be gone, by the time the water starts boiling.

  15. David Huie Green on November 11th, 2011 10:54 pm

    REGARDING:
    “I would reject the idea of nuclear plant being built. Gas or coal but no nuclear.”

    Gas and coal fuel for power generation seem okay because they are the old standard way of making electricity. Yet coal is the most dangerous in that it kills the most people per year with accidental deaths.

    From page 96 Scientific American, September 2011 information:

    For each 100 gigawatts of coal fired power generation, there are twelve accidental deaths per year — think mine collapses and explosions. Natural gas is much safer with only 7.19 accidental deaths per year for the same power production — mostly from distribution deaths, I assume ruptured pipelines. Nuclear has 0.73 per year, mostly from accidents at the power plants — things like falling off scaffolding, perhaps.

    Hydroelectric is safer with only 0.27, geothermal with only 0.17, onshore wind power generation with only 0.19.

    Particulate pollution from fossil fueled power plants are estimated to cause 30,100 premature deaths per year in the USA alone. Nuclear doesn’t have that problem, no airborne emissions (unless some drunk rooky at work throws the wrong switch, of course).

    [So if all our power came from nuclear, that would save 30,100 people per year plus the fewer people dying due to accidents.]

    In contrast tons of radioactive material go up the smoke stack of coal fired power plants. Most of it’s scrubbed out, but it’s funny to consider how people are scared of the safer form of power generation and comfortable with the worst form.

    David for the Bluff Springs Nuke Plant

  16. blah on November 11th, 2011 8:54 pm

    Those of you saying that you would move just don’t know very much about nuclear power. There are many main u.s. cities surrounded by many nuclear power plants, and no problems. Just because another country can’t handle their own, doesn’t mean we can’t. We already do, on moving vessels at that. With zero accidents.

  17. BB on November 11th, 2011 8:24 pm

    W hat in the world are they drinking Imean thinking. Maybe they should go have a talk with Japan, then go talk with Russia. I bet they wish somebody else had theirs.

  18. jp on November 11th, 2011 2:25 pm

    The most terrible 4yrs.(Dec. 1941 thru Aug.1945) in the history of this great
    country brought about the progress we now enjoy in our lives. Before the war
    brought us into the “atomic age”, the majority of Americans had no electricity,
    running water, or indoor plumbing.
    Sailors are onboard nuclear ships and submarines, and many civilians work
    around radioactive material without any problems.
    Deaths and illness from nuclear energy are probably less than 1 in ten million
    cases.
    Perhaps we should go back to kerosine lamps, horse and buggys and out houses.
    Just thinking!

  19. Well on November 11th, 2011 1:31 pm

    Bring it on.

    Finally some peace and quiet around here with everyone leaving.

    Are they hiring yet????????????????

  20. molino jim on November 11th, 2011 9:29 am

    PSC—Ref. your comment about the profit on the sell of the property—there was not a soccer field for sell —so they just made do.

  21. Harry Emery on November 11th, 2011 8:59 am

    I’m one of those who will have to move if a nuclear power plant is built in McDavid. I would reject the idea of nuclear plant being built. Gas or coal but no nuclear.

  22. Molino-Anon on November 11th, 2011 8:31 am

    Time to pack my bags and find another place to live… there’s no way I’m living less than 8 miles from a nuclear power plant.

    For 1 Melt downs
    For 2 If our country is invaded its a prime target
    For 3 I watch the Simpsons, I’m not eating 3-eyed fish!

  23. dnutjob1 on November 11th, 2011 8:17 am

    We need to look for cleaner energy options but, I would not think that a business would be able to bill someone for services not yet rendered.

  24. PSC on November 11th, 2011 7:26 am

    I wish I could be guarenteed a 12% return on investment as this utility is. Remember they bought 12M of prime pensacola waterfront property out from under commercial businesses downtown and constructed a 25M Taj Mahal….guess what, that expense garners them a guaranteed added profit. Then there was the 15M spent for their land on Hwy 29, purchased from a company who bought it for 4M 18 months earlier.. When will the rate payers say, enough! Oh but they are such good public stewards, donating to so many charitys – guess where the money comes from!

  25. 429SCJ on November 11th, 2011 7:01 am

    When I was a kid, I saw a number of documentaries on the dangers of nuclear fission. These were presented mon-Fri at 3:30PM everyday on channel 5 Mobile. The program called the BIG SHOW. A nice gentleman by the name of Maximillian Goodman hosted these presentations. I think Nuclear Power is great, as long as it is far downwind from us. The hard reality is as coal transportation cost skyrocket and natural gas prices increase, we will have to go with it.

  26. deBugger on November 11th, 2011 6:26 am

    Lots going on today, so I’ll just hit a few points:

    “…in 2006, the Legislature approved a law that makes it easier for utilities to recoup money from customers as nuclear projects are being developed. Lawmakers hoped the law would encourage building more nuclear plants.”

    Easier for a hugely-profitable company to get into your pockets in order to pay for their expansion plans, not just for the service they provide. I won’t even go into what’s wrong with lawmakers hoping to encourage the construction of more nuke plants.

    “Gulf had learned from its extensive site investigation that there was only one acceptable nuclear plant site in Northwest Florida…”

    Their opinion. I submit there is NO acceptable location for a nuke plant in NWFL.

    “…Helmuth Schultz, a witness for the Office of Public Counsel, filed written testimony describing the proposal as ’speculative overreaching.’ In part, he said Gulf Power has not shown a need for adding a nuclear plant.

    ‘Gulf has presented no basis on which the commission could conclude that this site could ever be used cost-effectively to benefit Gulf ratepayers,’ Schultz said.”

    Sounds more & more like another scheme to siphon more money from customers for a project that’s unwise & unnecessary.

  27. Jane on November 11th, 2011 6:09 am

    No one here wants a power plant there, much less a nuclear plant, and if they want to build one why are we paying for something that isn’t even planned yet? This is just a way to get more money from consumers! I see what the Escambia river looks like after the waste dumped there…it used to be nice there. Now they want to ruin more land! The County fights industry here but it seems OK to pollute land for another power plant. Who’s pocket is this going into?





Have a comment on this story?

We welcome your comments on this story, but there are some rules to follow::

(1) Be Nice. No comments that slander another, no racism, no sexism, no personal attacks.

(2) No Harrassing Comments. If someone says something bad about you, don't respond. That's childish.

(3) No Libel. That's saying something is not true about someone. Don't do it.

(4) Keep it clean. Nothing vulgar, obscene or sexually related. No profanity or obvious substitutions. Period.

(5) NorthEscambia.com reserves the right to remove any comments that violate our rules or we think to be inappropriate. We are not responsible for what is posted. Comments may not appear right away until they are approved by a moderator.

(6) Limit your comments to the subject in this story only, and limit comments to 300 words or less. Do not post copyrighted material. Comments will not be added to stories that are over 30 days old.

(7) No posts may advertise a commercial business or political group, or link to another commercial web site or political site of any kind.