Nuclear plant announces layoffs

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By Pat Faherty

CRYSTAL RIVER — Fallout from the shutdown of the Crystal River nuclear plant continues to hit area workers.

On Monday, Duke Energy/ Progress Energy filed notice with the state announcing the Friday, May 31, layoffs of approximately 31 employees at the Crystal River area plant.

When Duke announced the plant’s retirement Feb. 5, it had approximately 600 full-time workers. A spokesperson at the time said they would help redeploy workers to other positions in the company or offer transition benefits, such as severance packages, and career placement services.

In the long term, the nuclear plant — known as CR3 — will probably employ 50 to 80 workers, according to Alex Glenn, president of Duke Energy’s operations in Florida.

The layoff announcement was posted by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity after the utility filed a WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) Act notice April 1. The act requires most employers of 100 or more workers to give at least 60 days’ advance notice of a plant closing or mass layoff to affected workers or their representatives.

“CR3 has approximately 600 full-time employees,” confirmed Heather Danenhower, spokeswoman at Crystal River Nuclear Plant. “Of those, 30 individuals voluntarily elected to leave the company and were offered severance benefits. These employees have been given a 60-day letter (as required under Florida law) of their May 31 release date.

“The company remains committed to helping employees through this transition,” she said. “Our goal is retain those who want to continue their employment with Duke Energy.”

In a response to plant retirement, a work group in Citrus County — including Workforce Connection, the Economic Development Council, Withlacoochee Technical Institute and the College of Central of Florida — has been working with Progress Energy.

“We have had preliminary discussions with them but haven’t gotten into the details,” said Laura Byrnes of Workforce Connection. “We’re poised to assist in way that might be requested.

“If necessary, we’re prepared to seek special grant funding from the U.S. Department of Labor to assist employees. We will know more when we talk to Progress’ HR. Our plan is to work with them, pursue an NEG (National Emergency Grant) if needed, and complement their efforts.”

Contact Chronicle reporter Pat Faherty at 352-564-2924 or pfaherty@chronicleonline.com.