Duke Energy hopes to decide by early February whether to repair or retire its crippled Crystal River nuclear plant in Florida, CEO Jim Rogers said this week.
The fate of the plant, which Duke inherited in its 2012 merger with Progress Energy, will be a key decision for Duke this year. Duke now has 1.6 million customers in Florida, the second-largest of its six-state territory.
Were targeting the first of February to make a decision in terms of the way forward, Rogers said in an interview Wednesday. He called that date an aspirational target that could slip.
Rogers wouldnt say what decision he expects. Some financial analysts expect the plant to be retired.
Duke officials have previously said only that they expect a decision by summer. Further analysis of the repair risks detailed in an engineering report last fall was expected to be presented to Dukes senior managers in a week or two, a Progress Energy Florida official said Jan. 7.
Dukes board will make the final decision on the plant.
I would welcome getting to finality, Charles Rehwinkel, deputy public counsel for Floridas utility-customer advocacy agency. There are a lot of people waiting to learn whats going to happen customers, employees, local government, economic developers.
The 35-year-old nuclear plant has been shut down since 2009 because of separating layers of concrete in its thick-walled reactor containment structure after a repair went wrong.
Repairs are estimated to cost $1.5 billion, according to an analysis by Charlotte engineering firm Zapata Inc. that Duke released in October. But if unforeseen problems arise, the analysis said, Duke could be looking at an eight-year repair that costs $3.4 billion.
Duke has said it will repair the plant only if it has high confidence the repairs can be completed on time and under budget. That is an open question with Crystal River.
An initial concrete separation, called a delamination, had been repaired in the containment structure when two more delaminations were found in 2011. Risks now include whether more concrete could be damaged during repairs, the Zapata review said.
Because repairs didnt begin by the end of 2012, Duke will owe $100 million in refunds to Florida customers in 2015 and 2016 under the terms of a settlement reached early last year. Progress Energy Florida recorded a $100 million charge against its third-quarter earnings last fall to cover the refunds.
Rogers said hes been personally involved in mediation with Crystal Rivers insurer, which paid most of an initial claim but has refused to pay two further claims.
Progress Energy Floridas costs of buying replacement power while the plant was shut down already have exceeded the $490 million in insurance coverage. The property damage limits are $2.25 billion.
Two mediation sessions have been held with Nuclear Electric Insurance Ltd., utility officials said last week, and efforts will continue.
Henderson: 704-358-5051 Twitter: @bhender
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