Politics Pushes Back Against Nuclear Cost Overruns: The Southern Company (SO), NextEra Energy, Inc. (NEE), Duke Energy Corp (DUK)

Page 1 of 2

Politicians who supported the construction of new nuclear reactors in their home states are in meltdown mode. Instead of thermal cooling towers, the only thing soaring over the skylines are budgets. The Southern Company (NYSE:SO) announced at the end of February that it needed $737 million more than originally expected for the construction of its two new reactors at Plant Vogtle in Georgia. The project will now cost $15.15 billion, if, that is, the price tag isn’t revised upwards again.

The cost overruns seem to be the last straw for Georgia and Florida — two states betting big on a nuclear renaissance — as the process for collecting project funds has also come under fire. One infuriated politician wants to penalize Southern for going over budget, but the angry mob is focusing its anger on Progress Energy, Inc. (NYSE:PGN) and Duke Energy Corp (NYSE:DUK). Regulators aren’t taking it easy on the companies and their subsidiaries, either.

NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE:NEE)You won’t like him when he’s angry
The Florida Public Service Commission aired some dirty laundry from the now merged companies by stating that they collected nearly $819 million from their customers over the past several years for two nuclear projects: expanding the Crystal River facility and building an entirely new plant in Levy County. While there is nothing wrong with collecting funds from ratepayers for such expenditures, neither project has gained regulatory approval. In fact, the Crystal River project was scrapped after the facility was damaged beyond repair during the expansion.

Even worse, the company maintains that the first reactor at Levy won’t be operable until 2024 at the earliest. Yikes. I’ll take a guess and say that none of the funds will be returned to customers if the application for the Levy County reactors fails to impress the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or NRC. Regional politicians are right to be concerned.

Customer relief?
Politicians from both sides of the aisle are proposing bills that would prohibit or significantly limit the amount of funds utilities are allowed to collect pre-construction. The bills also want to ensure that companies don’t profit from nuclear plants that never leave blueprint canisters. Whether companies will be required to pay a fine to the state or give credits to customers remains to be determined.

Do customers reserve the right to be upset? Absolutely. (I don’t even live in Florida and I cringed when I heard about it.) However, I believe basing your opinion of nuclear energy on the high costs of construction alone is a bit unreasonable. I recently explained that position in more detail, showing that the low cost of fuel and maintenance actually makes atomic energy cheaper than other energy sources in the long term. There’s a reason the NRC has pending applications for 28 new reactors to review — four more than the total submissions facing the Department of Energy for LNG export terminals.

Page 1 of 2
Comments
Insider Monkey Small Cap Strategy
Insider Monkey Small Cap Strategy

Insider Monkey beat the market by 52 percentage points in 24 months. Our beta is only 1.2 (don't click this link if beating the market isn't important to you).

Lists

The Best B-Boy Movies

Most Awesome Hip Hop Documentaries

Foods That Stain Your Teeth

Richest Doctors in the World

The Best Movie Sountracks Ever

The Highest Grossing Musicals on Broadway

The Most Successful Reality TV Stars

Cheapest Cities to Visit in the US

Most Expensive Summer Camps

Most Expensive Animals in the World

Most Expensive Specialty Crops in the World

Movies That Took Ages to Make

The Longest Hollywood Films Ever Made

Most Expensive Concert Stages

The Richest Bands of all Time

10 Most Corrupt Countries 2013 List

10 Countries with the Highest Quality of Life Index

Most Expensive Mattresses in the World

5 Smallest Countries by Land Area

The Ultimate Heartbreak Songs

Richest Teenagers in the World

10 Most Haunted Places in America

10 Best Places to Retire in Florida East Coast

Top 10 Places to See Before You Die

Top 8 Countries in the World Where Justice Prevails

10 Richest States in America

15 Wealthiest Countries in the World

Richest Singers in the World

Most Expensive Tasting Menu in New York City

Most Expensive Baby Items in the World

Most Expensive Hotel Suites in Vegas

Most Expensive Brunch in New York City

Most Expensive Beef Cuts in the World

25 Best Colleges to Get a Job

Top 10 US Supermarkets

The 25 Most Dangerous Cities in the World to Visit

Most Expensive Xbox Games

Top 11 Cities Where Billionaires Live

Top 10 Most Charitable Companies in America

Most Expensive Seafood in the World

The 10 Wildest Conspiracy Theories

The 10 Best Job Markets in the US

Top 10 Accounting Scandals of All Time

The 25 Biggest Cities in the World

Top 10 Best Paying Virtual Jobs

Most Expensive Leather Shoes in the World

Top 6 Things to Buy in March

The 10 Most Stressful Jobs in America – 2014 List

Top 10 Jobs for Introverted People

Top 10 Honeymoon Destinations in the World

Subscribe

Enter your email:

Delivered by FeedBurner

X

Thanks! An email with instructions is sent to !

Your email already exists in our database. Click here to go to your subscriptions

Insider Monkey returned 47.6% in its first year! Wondering How?

Download a complete edition of our newsletter for free!