May 30, 2019 – Today, Duke Energy announced a plan to decommission its previously retired Crystal River Nuclear Plant in Florida by 2027 – nearly 50 years sooner than originally scheduled.
The plan has no impact on customer bills.
Duke Energy’s accelerated decommissioning plan is subject to approval by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Florida Public Service Commission. The process will take about a year to complete. If approved, decommissioning work will begin in 2020 and end in 2027.
Duke Energy previously announced its decision to retire the plant on Feb. 5, 2013, and to decommission it by 2074.
Decommissioning a nuclear plant is highly regulated and involves removing, packaging and shipping radioactive materials, such as the reactor vessel, to a licensed facility and then demolishing buildings.
To perform the work, Duke Energy has contracted with Accelerated Decommissioning Partners, a joint venture between NorthStar Group Services and Orano USA.
“We remain committed to making smart, forward-thinking and thoughtful business decisions that protect and benefit our customers,” said Catherine Stempien, Duke Energy’s state president for Florida. “The fixed-price contract will lock in today’s prices, providing us greater cost certainty.”
The contract structure provides Duke Energy customers financial protection and transfers project execution risks to Accelerated Decommissioning Partners, including potential cost overruns and unknown conditions.
Accelerating the decommissioning also allows for faster restoration and redevelopment of the nuclear plant property for Duke Energy’s reuse one day. The company has not yet determined how it might repurpose the property but has no plans to sell it.
Duke Energy is pursuing accelerated decommissioning for two reasons.
First, the trust fund that pays for the decommissioning, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission requirement, is currently sufficient to accelerate the plant’s decommissioning without increasing customer bills.
Duke Energy’s trust fund had about $717 million as of March 31, 2019.
Accelerating the nuclear plant’s decommissioning also gives Duke Energy a potential opportunity to return the majority of unused trust fund dollars back to customers more than three decades sooner than the current 60-year decommissioning model.
Second, Duke Energy has cost-effectively completed the initial phase of decommissioning, placing the plant in an ideal condition to attract bidders to complete the work.
This progress, coupled with increased competition in the industry, has lowered decommissioning costs, 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 all 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.
A dry cask storage facility is self-contained and stores used nuclear fuel assemblies in steel canisters housed in large concrete structures without power supplies, cooling water, pumps or motors. The system is safe and licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
“Selling the dry cask storage assets allows Duke Energy to transfer all aspects of used fuel management, including operating and maintenance costs, to us,” said Scott State, CEO of Accelerated Decommissioning Partners. “Owning the dry cask storage system assets closely aligns with our industry expertise and business strategy.”
Crystal River Energy Complex
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.
As a result of both projects, the local community will not notice any difference in operations at the Crystal River Energy Complex, other than occasional traffic increases on U.S. Highway 19 near Power Line Street.
Accelerating the nuclear plant’s decommissioning and dismantling the coal-fired units could create about 80 to 100 temporary jobs.