COLUMBIA — Gov. Jay Nixon announced Friday that he plans to work with statewide energy companies on legislation to recover the costs of an early site permit for a second nuclear power plant in Callaway County.
An early site permit verifies the environmental suitability and safety of a possible power plant site and usually takes three to four years to obtain. It allows for the development of a new plant by approving the proposed build site.
Nixon said the permit would cost about $40 million, and utility customers would pay an extra $1 to $2 per year, The Associated Press reported. If approved, the permit would be valid for 20 years and could be renewed for an additional 10 to 20 years.
Ameren Missouri, which was known as AmerenUE until this October, has a nuclear facility near Fulton. A new nuclear power plant would be built on the same site as this existing facility, if the project was approved.
A state law created in 1976 prevents utilities from billing customers for building costs. Last year, lawmakers explored measures that would lower the financing costs, but the measure failed. The new legislation would deal specifically with the cost of an early site permit.
Nixon said ratepayers will not pay for the permit unless his proposed legislation passes. The Missouri Public Service Commission would have to approve any rate hikes.
Consumer advocates said Friday the new proposal could force customers to pay millions of dollars before they can benefit from the power plant, the AP reported.
The Fair Energy Rate Action Fund, a Missouri-based consumer and employer group, stated it is pleased with Nixon’s plan but recommends customer protection provisions for the legislation, according to a news release.
The group has suggested three provisions:
- Provide more funding for the Office of Public Counsel so that it can conduct efficient audits of rate cases filed with the Public Service Commission.
- Put a limit on future rate increases to keep energy prices low.
- Give a refund to ratepayers if a plant is not built or if the permit is sold for profit.
The utilities involved in the planning process include Ameren Missouri, the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, Kansas City Power & Light and the Missouri Public Utility Alliance.
If a new plant is built, it will not necessarily be an Ameren project, Ameren Missouri spokesman Mike Cleary said.
Cleary said Missouri currently gets about 80 percent of its electricity from coal, but many of the plants will be wearing out in a few years. Environmental regulations are becoming harder for the plants to meet, which Cleary said makes nuclear power “very attractive."