Plug To Be Pulled On Stricken Florida Nuke

Feb 6, 2013

DOOMED PLANT: Crippled by poorly done repairs, Duke Energy's Crystal RIver nuclear plant will become the first in the southeastern U. S. to close.

Disabled by bungled repair work more tan three years ago, Duke Energy's Crystal River nuclear power plant will not be reactivated, company officials have concluded.

The plant in Citrus County on Florida's west coast will become he first in the Southeastern U. S. to close.

Four coal-fired generators will remain in place at the Crystal River site and the company is considering whether to build a new natural gas generator to replace the energy that the 900-megawatt CR3 nuke has produced since it opened in 1977.

Problems began in 2009 when company officials decided to economize on some necessary repairs. As the Tampa Bay Times reports today, that was a bad decision:

The work is relatively routine, having been performed successfully at dozens of plants across the country. But two things distinguished Progress’ handling of the work. Progress self-managed the steam generator replacement rather than hire one of the two companies all the other U.S. utilities used to oversee that work. The idea was to save money.

But more problems followed.

In fall of 2009, as workers began the project, they cracked the reactor’s 42-inch thick concrete containment building. They repaired the wall only to discover their efforts had cracked the wall again. The 36-year-old plant has been idle since.

Here's more on what TBT called a "DIY repair" in an October, 2011, story. 

Since then, Duke Energy has been trying to decide whether to revive the plant or cut losses and shut it down. Duke CEO Jim Rogers said Tuesday shut-down is the right choice.

How long does it take to dismantle a nuclear power plant? In this case, 40 to 60 years,. according to the Times report. And that's a good thing, at least for Duke Energy's ratepayers, who send their checks to Progress Energy Florida. Waiting that long will allow the utility's decommissioning fund to grow enough to cover all the costs. The current cost estimate is more than $900 million.