- Duke Energy on Thursday said that it plans to decommission its previously retired Crystal River Nuclear Plant in Florida by 2027, nearly 50 years sooner than originally scheduled.
- Duke gave two reasons for its plan. First, its decommissioning trust fund has enough — $717 million as of March 31 — to accelerate decommissioning without increasing customer bills. Second, Duke said it "has cost-effectively completed the initial phase of decommissioning, placing the plant in an ideal condition to attract bidders to complete the work."
- If Duke's plan is approved by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Florida Public Service Commission, decommission work would start next year. The original plan called for decommissioning the plant by 2074, the utility said.
Decommissioning a nuclear power plant is a highly regulated affair as it involves removing, packaging and shipping radioactive materials. To perform this specialized work, Duke said it signed a contract 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," Catherine Stempien, Duke Energy's state president for Florida, said in a statement. "The fixed-price contract will lock in today's prices, providing us greater cost certainty."
The contract structure transfers the project execution risk to Accelerated Decommissioning Partners, protecting Duke from potential cost overruns and other unknown events, the utility said.
In addition, increased competition in the energy market has lowered the decommissioning cost, which makes the accelerated execution more feasible, the utility said.
If the plan is approved by state and federal regulators, the utility will remain the licensed owner of the nuclear plant, equipment and property, and Accelerated Decommissioning Partners will become the official operator.
Once the plant is decommissioned, Duke plans to reuse its property, but has not yet determined how it will be repurposed.
Duke previously announced its decision to retire the nuclear plant, which has not produced energy since 2009, in February 2013. The plant is located at the company's 5,100-acre Crystal River Energy Complex on Florida's Gulf Coast about 85 miles north of Tampa.
The Crystal River complex also houses the new Citrus Combined Cycle Station, two operating coal-fired units and two retired coal-fired units.
In separate agreement, Duke said it hired NorthStar Group Services to dismantle the two non-operating coal units, which formally retired on Dec. 31.
Dismantling the coal-fired units is expected to start in 2019 and finish in 2023, according to a company statement.