Duke Decomish

The Florida Public Service Commission — after a 14-month review — unanimously approved Duke Energy's plan to accelerate the decommissioning of its retired Crystal River Nuclear Plant.

Duke Energy has passed its final hurdle on the way to decommissioning its retired Crystal River Nuclear Plant.

The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC)  after a 14-month review  unanimously backed Duke’s plan to enter a $540 million contract with the firm Accelerated Decommissioning Partners (ADP) to conduct what is known as “decommissioning” work.

Wait. What?

What does “decommissioning” even mean?

Decommissioning is the process by which nuclear power plants are retired from service and the operating licenses granted by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) are terminated, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Is this a big deal for Duke?

Yes, because the commission’s vote marks the final regulatory approval needed to close the contract this October.

It moves up the completion of the decommissioning work from 2074 to 2038. The company said accelerating the process allows for faster restoration and redevelopment of the nuclear plant property for Duke Energy’s reuse.

Reuse? To what?

The company has not yet determined how it might re-purpose the property but has no plans to sell it.

Who's paying for this?

Money for the decommissioning project is slated to come from a trust fund that received money from customers from 1982 to 2002, according to the Public Service Commission.

“Duke’s transaction requires no additional funds from its customers, and mitigates any risk from the plant’s otherwise long-term dormancy,” commission Chairman Gary Clark said in a prepared statement.

Is this a good thing for the Duke’s 47,500 Citrus County customers?

It is, said Duke spokeswoman Heather Danenhower.

The fixed-price contract with ADP to do the work will lock in today’s prices, providing Duke’s customers financial protection and transfers the costs and schedule risks of the project to ADP, according to Danenhower.

Danenhower said it allows for a potential opportunity to return most of the unused trust fund dollars back to customers sooner than the 60-year decommissioning model.

“Customers will also benefit from the plan’s fixed price and elimination of continued execution and property maintenance risk,” Clark said.

How long will this decommissioning of the retired nuclear plant take?

It will take seven years to complete but the bigger-picture project extends 18 years. Here’s how it breaks down:

From 2020 to 2027, ADP will decontaminate equipment, remove components, ship radioactive materials (such as the reactor vessel) to a licensed facility, demolish plant buildings, shrink the regulated land area and seek a partial-license termination from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Then what?

From 2020 to 2037, ADP will operate and maintain the on-site dry cask storage facility. Twenty-four-hour security, emergency response and radiological and environmental monitoring programs will continue throughout the decommissioning and ongoing operation of the dry cask storage facility in compliance with state and federal regulations.

And the last part of this?

From 2037 to 2038, ADP will restore the site and ask the NRC terminate the license and release the property for unrestricted use. This phase assumes the U.S. has a licensed interim or federal repository, all used nuclear fuel has been moved from the nuclear plant to that facility and the dry cask storage facility has been demolished.

At that point, the property would return to Duke Energy for the company’s reuse.

Can I get more information about all this?

Yes, by visiting duke-energy.com/CR3.

Contact Chronicle reporter Michael D. Bates at 352-563-3205 or mbates@chronicleonline.com.