FPL, NextEra sue nuclear industry group, allege extortion, retaliation


Florida Power & Light Co. and NextEra Energy have pulled their $3 million annual membership from the nation’s premier nuclear industry trade group, saying being a member was harmful to their interests.

Now the companies are accusing the Nuclear Energy Institute of extortion and retaliation, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court in West Palm Beach earlier this month.

FPL and its parent company, NextEra allege that the NEI has retaliated to its ending its membership by not allowing the companies access to a personnel database used by the nuclear power industry to screen workers.

READ ABOUT A LAWSUIT FILED AGAINST FPL OVER ITS TURKEY POINT PLANT

After NextEra and FPL notified NEI on Jan. 4 that they were not renewing their memberships, NEI told the companies they would be cut off from the database on Feb. 4 unless they paid $860,000. The companies assert in the lawsuit that the vast majority of that was for membership fees unrelated to the database fees.

NEI President and CEO Maria Korsnick said in a statement Tuesday, “NEI vehemently denies all of the allegations in NextEra’s lawsuit and will vigorously defend our position in court.”

Korsnick said, “To call NEI’s approach retaliatory or even suggest the notion of extortion, is both counter-factual and offensive to the good faith effort the offer represents.”

NextEra and FPL also do not approve of the direction the NEI has taken in recent years. The NEI has sought to undermine the production of electricity from sources other than nuclear reactors, the lawsuit states. NEI has claimed that the “grid-based electricity supply portfolio in the United States is becoming less cost-effective, less reliable and less resilient.”

FPL, which produces 70 percent of its electricity using natural-gas fired generators, asserts in the lawsuit that such claims are unfounded.

Juno Beach-based FPL operates two nuclear reactors at its St. Lucie plant on Hutchinson Island and two reactors at its Turkey Point plant south of Miami. NextEra operates nuclear plants in Iowa, Wisconsin and New Hampshire.

The St. Lucie plant is being ramped up for a routine refueling outage this month, and when that happens, the number of workers grows to about 1,700 people from the usual 700, the lawsuit states.

FPL spokesman Peter Robbins said after the company learned that it would not be allowed access to the system Personnel Access Data System known as PADS, it developed a contingency plan to vet and hire the workers for nuclear jobs.

“Initially we believed we would be able to leave NEI and have access to the system,” Robbins said Thursday.

However, after FPL and NextEra submitted fees to retain acces to the database, NEI returned the payments, the lawsuit states. NEI then said it would permit access only if the companies agreed to pay $860,000, the companies decided to sue.

“We made a business decision we thought was in the best interest of us and our customers. They clearly want to retaliate,” Robbins said.

NEI’s Korsnick, said, “When NextEra voluntarily chose to discontinue its NEI membership, it was no longer entitled to continue participating in PADS. Even then, NEI conveyed to NextEra that it would supply the information in PADS necessary to maintain strict compliance with NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) regulations. That exchange has been accomplished and will continue throughout each work week.”

Robbins said. “The notion that they wanted to somehow cooperate with us is laughable.”



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