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Fast-track Decommissioning Planned for Crystal River Nuke

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Duke Energy nowt plans to fully decommission its retired Crystal River Nuclear Plant in Florida by 2027. That accelerated timeline is nearly 50 years sooner than first proposed.

Duke's speedier decommissioning plan still needs approval by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Florida regulators. That process is expected to take about a year to complete. If approved, decommissioning work would begin in 2020 and end in 2027.

Duke Energy announced its decision to retire the plant in February 2013, and to decommission it by 2074. That 60-year timeframe was in line with earlier estimates for the amount of  time needed to fully decommission a nuclear reactor.

But thinking has changed and Duke has contracted with Accelerated Decommissioning Partners, a joint venture between NorthStar Group Services and Orano USA to complete the work.

In a separate development, control room operators at Entergy’s Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Massachusetts shut down its reactor for the final time on May 30. Last August, Entergy said that it planned to sell Pilgrim to a Holtec International subsidiary, a decommissioning company that plans to complete decommissioning at the site decades sooner than if Entergy continued to own the plant. Regulatory approval and closing of the transfer are targeted for 2019.

Entergy’s remaining operating nuclear power plants in merchant power markets - Indian Point Unit 2 and Unit 3, in New York, and Palisades Power Plant, in Michigan, are scheduled to be shut down in 2020, 2021, and 2022, respectively. These closures, along with the sale of these plants to decommissioning specialty companies, mark the end of Entergy’s participation in merchant power markets and its return to a pure-play utility.

The Crystal River reactor went offline in September 2009 for refueling, once through steam generator replacement and 20% power up-rate outage. In preparing the containment building to replace the two steam generators, tendons in the containment building wall were detensioned. Workers found a large gap in the concrete of the containment building wall. The main cause of the delamination was attributed to the scope and sequence of the tendon detensioning.

After weighing its options, Duke Energy announced in February 2013 that the Crystal River Nuclear Plant would be permanently shut down. Duke said it is now pursuing accelerated decommissioning at Crystal River for two reasons.

First, it said that the trust fund that pays for the decommissioning is currently sufficient to accelerate the plant’s decommissioning without increasing customer bills. The trust fund had about $717 million as of March 31, 2019.

Second, Duke  has completed the initial phase of decommissioning, placing the plant in a condition to attract bidders to complete the work. This progress, coupled with increased competition in the industry, has lowered decommissioning costs, the utility said, making the accelerated model financially feasible.

If regulators approve the transaction, Duke Energy will remain the Nuclear Regulatory Commission-licensed owner of the nuclear plant, property and equipment and retain ownership and control of the trust fund that pays for the decommissioning.

In turn, Accelerated Decommissioning Partners will become the Nuclear Regulatory Commission-licensed operator responsible for decommissioning the plant in compliance with state and federal regulations. Accelerated Decommissioning Partners will also own the dry cask storage system assets, including the used nuclear fuel assemblies, and operate and maintain the on-site dry cask storage facility.

The nuclear plant is located at Duke Energy’s 5,100-acre Crystal River Energy Complex on Florida’s Gulf Coast about 85 miles north of Tampa. The complex is home to the new Citrus Combined Cycle Station, two operating coal-fired units and two retired coal-fired units.

In a separate agreement, Duke Energy hired NorthStar Group Services, joint owner of Accelerated Decommissioning Partners, to dismantle the coal-fired units, which formally retired Dec. 31, 2018.

Dismantling the coal-fired units is expected to start in 2019 and finish in 2023.

DW Keefer's picture

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Robert Magyar's picture
Robert Magyar on June 17, 2019

In 2009, the media reported a local concrete cutting firm with no prior experience in nuclear sites, was hired by Progress Energy while CEO Bill Johnson was in charge to save a reported $15 million over nuclear contractors experienced in steam generator upgrades to existing plants like Crystal River. In the process, the containment structure was cracked beyond repair and with it, the nuclear plant effectively rendered useless. Duke then bought and absorbed Progress Energy and let CEO Johnson who was supposed to be the new president of Duke Energy go wherein he headed off to run TVA with Johnson recently named CEO of PGE in California. All of this reported by media sources nationally. With it the costs related to this nuclear construction debacle as usual borne by Progress/Duke ratepayers and U.S. taxpayers and rarely if ever calculated into what turns out to be misleading LCOE comparisons of one fuel source over the other.  It is a situation which is similar to those who produce favorable LCOE for coal while ignoring all the costs which are externalized. 

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