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« "Retired Duke reactor may signal more U.S. nuclear shutdowns" | Main | Entergy Watch: UBS predicts "real retirement risk for units such as Vermont Yankee and FitzPatrick in '13" »
Wednesday
Feb062013

After three year outage and $1.3 billion, Duke Energy pulls plug on Florida’s cracked Crystal River 3

It started in October 2009 with the previous owner’s “do-it-yourself” steam generator replacement at Florida’s Gulf Coast Crystal River nuclear power plant, aka “CR3”.  The job was intended to save Progress Energy $16 million. But while cutting the 25 ft. by 27 ft. hole through the thick concrete containment shield wall, the high-pressure water cutting operation sprang the embedded pre-tensioned steel rebar super-structure like a rat trap, sending cracks throughout the reactor’s ultimate “protective barrier”. Progress Energy had busted the 190 ft. high and 130 ft. wide impervious containment building---for good. Exactly how is not publicly known given the Florida Public Service Commission helped negotiate a settlement agreement in 2012 that let Progress Energy refund $288 million to ratepayers in exchange for ending a public investigation. Duke Energy was faced with an estimated $3 billion+ concrete patch job with a dubious outcome. So, after sticking ratepayers with $1.3 billion for the botched power upgrade that broke the nuke and a three year outage in replacement power costs, the new owner, Duke called it quits February 5, 2013. After insurance, Duke gets to pocket about $100 million.

CR3 is now a very expensive and large heap of radioactive junk. Duke has announced that they will put the permanently shuttered nuke into SAFESTOR, that is, defuel the reactor vessel of nuclear waste into wet and dry storage, “decontaminate” the interior reactor building and “mothball” the entire structure for up to 60 years into the future.  This option effectively postpones the notoriously unreliable to estimate but costly “decommissioning” of the atomic reactor that can run up to as much as $1 billion. Duke is quoted to currently have $600 million in an external decommissioning fund. Ultimately, it’s another super-sized price tag for the radioactive “trans-contamination” of the environment; the radioactive hulk dismantled, razed, contaminated soil dug up and all hauled off and dumped on some other community deemed “nowhere” of concern. Moreover, there remain the hundreds of tons of CR3’s high-level nuclear waste, the irradiated nuclear fuel, which will be stored onsite for the time being with actually nowhere to go.