Public Service Commission to continue review of Crystal River nuclear plant

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By Pat Faherty

Progress Energy Florida’s pending decision to repair or retire the Crystal River nuclear plant will be discussed by the Florida Public Service Commission on Monday.

However, no new information is expected on whether the utility’s insurance will cover more of the costs.

The status conference relates to the PSC case examining the outage and replacement fuel and power costs associated with the October 2009 steam generator replacement project, which damaged the plant’s containment structure. Additional damage occurred in 2011 as the unit was being returned to service and it remains shut down.

Progress Energy initially estimated the plant would be returned by the first quarter of 2011. The case has been before the PSC since November 2010. Status conferences are held twice a year to keep the PSC up to date on the project, unless the presiding commissioner requests otherwise.

Progress has described the needed repairs as “a first-of-a-kind engineering, construction and licensing project.” Once started, repairs could take 33 to 96 months, with total cost estimates between $1.27 billion and $3.43 billion.

Last year an additional requested status conference was held Oct. 30 when the PSC received a summary of the report from Zapata Inc. regarding its independent review of the potential repair plan for the Crystal River nuclear plant (CR3).

The report estimated the repair cost at approximately $1.49 billion, with a worst-case scenario of $3.43 billion with a 96-month schedule.

Florida Public Service Commissioner Eduardo Balbis, who presided over the session, was informed that Progress had four teams working on the project, including a technical review team and a retirement decommissioning team.

The October conference also discussed the status of the power company’s negotiations with Nuclear Electric Insurance Limited (NEIL), which insures CR3. The plant is covered by separate policies, up to $2.25 billion for property damages and up to $490 million for accidental power outages. As of November, Progress has received $136 million in repair costs and $162 million for the accidental outage (power replacement) costs.

Last week, Progress Energy Florida spokeswoman Suzanne Grant said there was no new information on the insurance issue and discussions are continuing with NEIL. 

The conference is scheduled for 10 a.m. in Tallahassee. It can be viewed online at www.psc.state.fl.us.

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