Duke Energy on Thursday announced it will decommission its retired Crystal River Nuclear Plant by 2027 — almost 50 years sooner than originally scheduled.
The plan is subject to approval by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Florida Public Service Commission and that process could take a year. But, if approved, the plant’s decommissioning work will begin in 2020.
At the same time, Duke will dismantle its coal-fired units, which had already been retired last December. That should finish in 2023.
So what does this mean to Citrus County residents?
People will not notice any significant difference in operations at the Crystal River Energy Complex, but expect occasional traffic increases on U.S. 19 near Power Line Street.
Accelerating the decommissioning process and dismantling the coal-fired units could create about 80 to 100 temporary jobs. But most of those will be specialized jobs done by employees from out-of-town. There could be some locals hired, depending on work involved but nothing near the scope of when Duke was building the natural gas plant.
One positive — those out-of-towners will be living here for awhile and spending money in the community.
Duke said this all will have no effect on the 47,388 customers’ monthly energy bills.
And Duke spokeswoman Heather Danenhower said she wants to allay any fear that the moved-up decommissioning schedule means the company is pulling out of Crystal River.
“We’ve been here 50 years and we will continue to be here,” Danenhower said. “Duke Energy is still very much a part of this community and we’re not going anywhere.”
Duke previously announced it would retire the plant on Feb. 5, 2013, and to decommission it by 2074. Accelerating the decommissioning allows for faster restoration and redevelopment of the nuclear plant property for Duke Energy’s reuse. The company has not yet determined how it might re-purpose the property but has no plans to sell it.
The news was lauded by local officials.
Josh Wooten, president and CEO of the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce, said the Duke news is welcome on several fronts.
“Decommissioning and deconstructing now, rather than later, enable other economic opportunities at that site,” Wooten said. “The labor needed for this project will be a welcome shot in the arm for our small businesses.
“By doing this now rather that 50 years in the future, they are locking in the costs which may benefit the ratepayer in the long run. It will also bring confidence that the site is clean and secure for the public and environment.”
County Commission Chairman Jeff Kinnard said Duke is going to "clear out equipment that is not producing anything anymore."
“They’re going to get all that stuff out of there — the nuclear infrastructure, the two coal plants that are no longer functioning," he said. "Now you’ve got a bunch of property in there that can be re-purposed for something."
Duke Energy has contracted with Accelerated Decommissioning Partners to perform the work.
“The fixed-price contract will lock in today’s prices, providing us greater cost certainty,” said Catherine Stempien, Duke Energy’s state president for Florida.