Regulators approved an expansion Monday of a nuclear generator at Florida Power & Light’s power plant in St. Lucie County.
FPL, the state’s largest utility, plans to implement the increase within months, and the upgraded reactor will produce 982 megawatts of energy, an increase of 15 percent, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Later this week, the agency’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards plans to discuss a proposed expansion of another reactor at the plant.
The NRC said it determined FPL “could safely increase the reactors’ power output primarily by carrying out significant upgrades to several plant systems and components, including the feedwater pumps and the high-pressure turbine.”
As part of their review, regulators said they evaluated the company’s analysis, which shows the plants' design can accommodate the power increases.
The cost of the four expansions, an estimated $2.95 billion to $3.15 billion, is up at least 64 percent from the $1.8 billion estimated cost in 2007, according to the state's Public Service Commission.
The four FPL expansions will add 490 megawatts of energy, enough to power 311,578 homes, according to FPL Spokesman Mike Waldron.
FPL has also proposed building two new reactors at the Turkey Point plant, which would cost an estimated $13 billion to $18 billion.
A 2006 Florida law aimed to encourage the growth of nuclear energy allows utilities to charge customers costs to plan nuclear plants before they’re built or even approved by federal regulators. FPL customers have paid more than $300 million in planning and design costs for all of its nuclear expansions.
"The upgrades at St. Lucie will help FPL maintain the lowest bill in the state of Florida by providing clean and cost-effective energy for our customers for decades to come," Waldron said, adding that FPL's nuclear expansion projects are predicted to save customers about $3.8 billion in fuel costs.Opponents of nuclear power are concerned about construction costs and safety and environmental issues.