Still no decision on what to do with broken Crystal River nuclear reactor

01/07/13 Janelle Irwin
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Progress Energy Florida still doesn’t know what to do with its broken Crystal River nuclear plant. The utility updated Public Service Commission officials today on what will be done about the plant that has been off line since 2009. Progress Energy Florida’s attorney John Burnett’s answer to that: we’ll let you know this summer.

“Since the last update to this commission in October, the company has continued gathering the information it needs to complete the repair/retire analysis for Crystal River Unit 3. As we noted in our last update, we continue to believe that the company will be in a position to make a decision no later than summer, 2013. The company is committed to making the best possible decision for all stakeholders.

Repair estimates for the broken reactor have soared to 6 billion dollars since it was taken off line in 2009. Customers have been paying for replacement power. Thanks to a settlement agreement last year, the utility may refund customers some of that money if the plant is repaired. That decision relies heavily on whether or not Progress Energy Florida’s insurance carrier, Neil, decides to foot some or all of the bill. Burnett updated Public Service Commissioners and stakeholders during a meeting broadcast over the web from Tallahassee. He said the parties haven’t agreed to anything yet.

“The company has also completed two mediation sessions with its insurance carrier Neil. As is common in alternative dispute resolution matters, the rules governing that mediation require us to maintain the substance of those sessions in confidence. We can report, however, that informal settlement discussions with Neil are still ongoing. If we are unable to reach a settlement with Neil, than the next step would be formal arbitration pursuant to the terms of the governing insurance policies. As we continue through this process, CR3 remains safely shut down and the condition of the unit has not changed since our last report in October.”

A decision is also hinged on just how much money a repair would cost. Progress originally estimated less than a billion dollars. Then an outside consultant from North Carolina, Zapata, came in with about a billion and a half. From there other estimates rolled in and continued to climb. Burnett said a final report from the firm is expected within the next couple of weeks.

“The actual scope of work of any repair remains at issue because the technical evaluation that is ongoing – taking in consideration the Zapata report – needs to be completed, vetted to our senior management committee. Then the next step would be taking that scope if it were to change at all in duration or in the scope of work back to URS and negotiate any increased or decreased changed scope of work. So, largely we’ve everything we can do at this time pending the completion of the technical analysis.”

Bennett mentioned URS – that is the engineering firm that would fix the broken reactor if Progress decides to do so. There were four teams studying potential fall backs or benefits from bringing the Crystal River plant back on line. Zapata’s technical report was one. There were also groups doing a fact finding study, a repair study and a decommission analysis.

“With respect to the decommissioning team, that work product is largely complete and being finalized, but I don’t think there’s anything substantial to do there. So, what a decommissioning scenario or a retirement scenario would look like in terms of decommissioning the unit is largely done.”

Burnett didn’t say what the decommissioning analysis found. He also didn’t allude to any possible outcomes.

Past coverage of the Crystal River nuclear plant

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