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Duke Energy files $1.2B nuclear shutdown plan

Duke Energy has filed with federal regulators a nearly $1.2 billion plan to decommission its shuttered Crystal River nuclear plant.

Duke decided in February to retire the plant rather than risk trying to fix its reactor containment building, whose concrete walls were damaged during a botched repair job in 2009. Repairs could have cost up to $3.4 billion.

Crystal River, 85 miles north of Tampa, Fla., will be mothballed for 60 years until decommissioning work ends in 2074. The plant began operating in 1977.

Duke plans to use a Nuclear Regulatory Commission-approved decommissioning method that requires limited staffing to monitor the plant until it is eventually dismantled and decontaminated. The two other options were to remove contaminated structures and materials from the site or permanently encase them in concrete.

Duke estimates decommissioning costs at $1.18 billion in today’s dollars.

The company says its nuclear decommissioning trust fund of $778 million, along with future growth of the fund and $70 million from Crystal River’s nine other owners, will be enough to cover those costs. Eight municipal electric utilities and a cooperative own shares in the plant.

The plant’s used nuclear fuel, now stored in a pool, will be moved to a dry-storage cask system that will be built on the plant site. Radiological and environmental monitoring will continue throughout the decommissioning years.

The decommissioning plan, which has to be approved by the NRC, will first be available for public comment. The NRC will hold a public meeting in Citrus County, Fla., in early 2014.

Crystal River is Duke’s only nuclear plant in Florida, where it serves 1.7 million customers. About 275 people work at the plant as part of a decommissioning transition. Two hundred were transferred to other Duke facilities, and about 100 left the company.

Duke said in September that it plans to build a 1,640-megawatt power plant fueled by natural gas in Citrus County, likely near but not at the Crystal River complex. Two of four coal-fired units at Crystal River will be retired by 2018.

Duke has shelved plans to build a new nuclear plant in Levy County, Fla.

In deciding to retire Crystal River nuclear plant in February, Duke said it would accept a $530 million settlement with the plant’s insurer, in addition to the $305 million it had already paid.

The Florida Public Service Commission in October approved a settlement with consumer advocates that allows Duke to begin recovering from its Florida customers $135 million of the plant’s value in 2014. The remaining value of the plant, nearly $1.5 billion, will be recovered over 20 years.

Henderson: 704-358-5051; Twitter: @bhender
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