Jan 7 Duke Energy officials may be near
a decision on whether to invest billions to repair the damaged
Crystal River nuclear plant in Florida or to shut and
decommission it, a Florida regulator said on Monday.
The 838-megawatt Crystal River reactor has been shut for
more than three years due to the complex nature of work needed
to repair a series of cracks that occurred after the containment
building walls were opened to allow replacement of the reactor's
Florida Public Service Commissioner Eduardo Balbis pressed
the company and other parties in the case on the timing of the
nuclear decision as it will affect several regulatory cases
scheduled to be heard at the agency this year.
"We have a decision that's coming soon," said Balbis who is
overseeing status conferences on Crystal River. "I'm glad it's
coming soon, whichever way it goes, because there are things
that need to happen at that point. This is an important issue."
A technical team at Duke's Florida utility - Progress
Energy Florida - is a week or two away from submitting its draft
report evaluating repair options for the Crystal River reactor
to the company's chief nuclear officer, John Burnett of Progress
told the commissioner at a status meeting Monday.
The chief nuclear officer will send the report to senior
management, then to the Duke board, meaning a decision to repair
or retire the utility's only nuclear plant could be made by this
summer, Burnett said, declining to be more specific.
The prolonged shutdown of Crystal River and uncertainty over
the cost and feasibility of its repair became a point of
contention between Duke board members and former Progress Chief
Executive Bill Johnson in the final weeks before Charlotte,
North Carolina-based Duke finalized its $18 billion merger with
Progress Energy in July.
At one point, Progress had said Crystal River might return
to service in 2014 at a cost of $1.3 billion, but skeptical Duke
directors ordered an independent review of the situation prior
to the merger's closing. That review revealed that the repair
bill could exceed $3 billion and take eight years.
Under a settlement agreement with Florida regulators,
Progress had planned to make the repair/retire decision by the
end of last year, but Duke Chairman Jim Rogers said the decision
would likely take longer.
Another unresolved question that will play into Duke's
decision relates to how an insurance claim covering Crystal
River will be handled by Nuclear Electric Insurance Limited
(NEIL), an industry-sponsored insurance company, that is facing
a number of costly claims.
Burnett said a mediation process related to the insurance
claims is ongoing.
He said two sessions with a mediator have been held without
an agreement. While another session has not been scheduled,
Burnett said neither the mediator, nor the parties have declared