Political and environmental activists praise closing of Duke Energy Crystal River nuke

02/05/13 Janelle Irwin
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Duke energy announced today that it will permanently close the Crystal River nuclear plant that has been sitting idle since 2009.

The plant won’t be decommissioned for several decades though to allow the power company to build its decommissioning funds.

Repairs to the cracked nuclear reactor were originally estimated at a billion dollars but soared to more than $6 billion. Customers have been paying for replacement power.

I spoke with the political director for the Florida Consumer Action Network Tim Heberlein today about what the closure means for rate payers.

"The huge because I think that the folks at Progress Energy and Duke are realizing that this is just a money pit, that it's a bad long term investment which we have been at the Florida Consumer Action Network have been pushing for years and they're starting to realize it. And consumers after essentially years of outrage have finally gotten through to them so it's a huge victory for consumers, for rate payers both residential and commercial in the area."

What will rate payers see going forward? Will they see a reduction in rates? How will this affect them?

"The Florida legislature still allows what's called to advance their cost recovery which allows utilities to basically add a surcharge to everyone's bill in order to pay for certain projects like the nuclear power plant that was shut down. They still allow this but it seems like the legislature is actually taking a solid interest in this this year and might be addressing this issue. We're hoping that they will prohibit nuclear cost recovery so that the rate payers don't end up dumping hundreds of millions - if not billions of dollars into projects like the Crystal River nuclear power plant. Nuclear cost recovery is still an option for some of the public utilities in Florida. They might still see that surcharge there, hopefully this legislature will be able to get that changed. It is an issue that's going up before - being addressed in Tallahassee session probably in March. If we can get them to negate that, to cancel that, to disallow that policy you'll actually see some improved rates for every, for millions of Floridians."

Duke Energy is considering replacing the plant with natural gas. The Sierra Club’s Cathy Harrelson spoke to WMNF about what that means for the environment.

"We're glad to see this finally happen. Nuclear power is touted as a renewable energy source but the reality is that the uranium mining is not healthy or renewable. It creates a lot of water impacts in the location where that happens. Likewise here in Florida the amount of water used in running a nuclear plant is huge and at a time in Florida where our fresh water springs and rivers are being drawn down at a precipitous rate we think that this is a wonderful turn of events for the Florida environment. It also, hopefully, creates a space so that renewable energy can be better developed in Florida so that the state and other municipalities can turn to renewable, truly renewable energy portfolio. All in all a good day in the Progress Energy service area - or shall I say Duke Energy?"

Four coal-burning plants will still be in use at the Crystal River site.

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