The state Public Utilities Commission wants to know how Hawaiian Electric would be affected if, hypothetically, there was a major disaster at one of NextEra Energy’s nuclear reactors in Florida.

Would it hurt the companies’ credit rating? Would it limit their ability to provide financial support for Hawaii’s clean energy transformation? Would NextEra have to take money from Hawaiian Electric’s dividend payments to cover any claims that could result from such a catastrophe?

Those were just a handful of the wide-ranging new questions that the PUC’s general counsel, Tom Gorak, submitted in his latest filing in the docket to determine whether the proposed $4.3 billion sale of Hawaiian Electric to NextEra should be approved.

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Florida Power and Light’s Turkey Point nuclear generating station along side of Biscayne National Park.

NPCA/Flickr

The PUC made 142 additional information requests Monday, the same day the two companies filed just over 1,000 pages in response to previous questions about the merger.

But that’s just a fraction of what’s expected to come later this month as the 28 intervening parties in the case digest the new information that’s been provided and file follow-up requests.

Life of the Land, a Honolulu-based nonprofit headed by Henry Curtis, has already submitted 16 additional questions for NextEra and Hawaiian Electric.

His latest queries, filed Tuesday, ask the companies for emails and other correspondence they may have sent to encourage people to attend the public listening sessions that the PUC plans to hold throughout the islands, which start Friday  on Maui.

Curtis wants the companies to disclose which consultants may have been involved, if any, to drum up support for the public meetings and encourage them to speak out.

He also is trying to pry out any potential conflicts of interest that former PUC members or their families may have in the case.

Gorak and Ono Maui Energy Conference

Hawaii Consumer Advocate Jeff Ono, right, and Tom Gorak, chief counsel at the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission, listen during a panel discussion at the Maui Energy Conference in March.

Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

Gorak paints a hypothetical picture of a nuclear reactor incident at one of Florida Power & Light’s nuclear stations at Turkey Point or St. Lucie. (FP&L is a subsidiary of NextEra.)

In his scenario, there’s catastrophic damage to a nuclear reactor which renders the reactor permanently inoperable. The financial consequences, he says, would include procurement of expensive replacement electricity, major expenditures to clean up reactor damage and environmental contamination, and premature decommissioning of the nuclear power plant.

Gorak first asks whether NextEra would agree that scenario represents a “credible, but extremely low probability event,” and then asks about the impacts to Hawaiian Electric.

He goes on to ask questions based on scenarios at other nuclear stations that NextEra owns. (Florida gets 12 percent of its power from nuclear plants, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Hawaii has no nuclear power and is working to become powered completely by renewable energy by 2045.)

The PUC wants to know the corporate, legal and financial protections that NextEra will implement to insure that the Hawaiian Electric companies are insulated from any and all adverse financial and business consequences in the event of a catastrophic nuclear reactor accident.

Read all of the PUC’s new information requests, which range from nuclear questions to pension plans, here.

Read Life of the Land’s latest requests for information here.

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