Florida OKs first new nuclear plant in more than 30 years

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Cabinet on Tuesday approved Progress Energy's controversial proposal to build a nuclear plant in Levy County, the first such plant approved in Florida in 33 years.

The vote by Gov. Charlie Crist, Attorney General Bill McCollum and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink comes as Progress seeks to raise its base rates by 30 percent to pay for the nuclear plant, which would not be up and running until at least 2018.

"I want to commend Progress for this initiative,'' McCollum said. "It's a very, very important project. I am impressed with the passion of the opponents here today, but I want to assure them that I have spent a long time studying this issue. . . . We are going to have a tremendous demand for energy in the coming years. We're going to have to increase our capacity for electricity and power, and nuclear is a part of that.''

Crist, who has been pushing for a stronger renewable and clean energy plan for Florida, lauded the clean energy the plant will produce. He also is enthusiastic about jobs to be created with the plant's construction and operation -- as many as 5,000 short- and long-term, by Progress' estimate.

"We need to diversify our energy resources,'' Crist said. "I encourage solar and wind and wave and nuclear development. The more diversified we are, the more opportunity we have to never suffer when one is less available than the other.''

Crist noted Florida has become No. 2 in the country for solar energy production.

Progress officials hailed the plant as a major step toward that diversified energy future, and they insist the plant will result, over time, in cost savings for customers.

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