Crystal River Nuclear Plant
On Feb. 5, 2013, Duke Energy announced its decision to retire the Crystal River Nuclear Plant, known as CR3, located on Florida’s Gulf Coast approximately 85 miles north of Tampa.
While replacing two 500-ton steam generators during a scheduled maintenance and refueling outage in October 2009, engineers discovered a delamination, or separation of concrete, within the containment building that surrounds the reactor vessel. Though crews successfully repaired the damage, additional delamination was discovered in two different areas of the containment building in 2011.
After completing a comprehensive, months-long analysis of costs, risks and other factors, Duke Energy determined that retiring the plant, instead of continuing to pursue a first-of-its-kind repair to the containment building, was in the best interests of customers and shareholders.
An independent review commissioned in 2012 confirmed that repairing the containment building was technically feasible but included significant risks that could raise the cost of the repair and extend the repair schedule significantly.
CR3 remains in a safe, stable condition. The plant's comprehensive emergency preparedness plans and full-time, around-the-clock security force remain in place.
CR3 went into service March 13, 1977, generating on average 860 megawatts of electricity and helping to supply reliable, affordable and clean electricity to approximately 1.7 million customers in Florida.
The nuclear plant is co-located with four coal-fired units at the Crystal River Energy Complex, a 4,700 acre site that represents the largest energy complex on the Duke Energy Florida system. The four coal-fired units produce 2,290 megawatts of generation and employ approximately 345 people. As of July 2015, approximately 75 people will work at CR3, not including security personnel or contractors.
Duke Energy owns 91.8 percent of the Crystal River Nuclear Plant. Nine other utilities own 8.2 percent of the plant, including the City of Alachua, City of Bushnell, City of Gainesville, Kissimmee Utilities Authority, City of Leesburg, New Smyrna Beach Utilities Commission, City of Ocala, Orlando Utilities Commission and Seminole Electric Cooperative, Inc.
Decommissioning a nuclear plant is significantly different from other industries. It is a well-defined, lengthy and proven process with a high level of engagement and oversight by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
Nuclear reactors like CR3 that are permanently shut down and have no fuel in the reactor vessel present different radiological risks from operating reactors. However, the obligation to adhere to certain NRC requirements of an operating reactor can only be eliminated through a series of license amendment requests that are currently underway.
Decommissioning a nuclear plant involves removing the spent fuel rods (the fuel that has been in the reactor vessel), dismantling systems or components containing radioactive products (such as the reactor vessel) and dismantling contaminated materials from the facility. All activated materials generally have to be removed from the site and shipped to a waste-processing, storage or disposal facility.
Contaminated materials may be cleaned of contamination on site, cut off and removed (leaving most of the component intact in the facility) or removed and shipped to a waste-processing, storage or disposal facility. Duke Energy will decide how to decontaminate materials based on the amount of contamination, the ease with which it can be removed and the cost to remove the contamination.
The NRC allows three decommissioning approaches:
- Immediate decontamination and dismantlement (DECON): Under the DECON option, soon after the nuclear facility closes, equipment, structures and portions of the facility containing radioactive contaminants are removed or decontaminated to a level that permits release of the property and termination of the NRC license.
- Safe storage (SAFSTOR) (also called delayed decontamination): Generally, this involves placing the facility into a safe storage configuration, requiring limited staffing to monitor plant conditions, until the eventual dismantling and decontamination activities occur, usually in 40 to 60 years.
- Entombment (ENTOMB): Under the ENTOMB option, radioactive contaminants are permanently encased on site in structurally sound material, such as concrete, and appropriately maintained and monitored until the radioactivity decays to a level permitting restricted release of the property. To date, no NRC-licensed facilities have requested the ENTOMB option.
Duke Energy has selected the SAFSTOR decommissioning option, a common option selected by previously shut down nuclear plants. The schedule for CR3's decommissioning activities uses the 60 years allowed by NRC regulation. The unit will be safely and cost-effectively placed into its SAFSTOR condition by July 2015. The unit will remain in that state (called dormancy) until the large component removal activities begin in 2068. The NRC will terminate the license in 2073, and site restoration activities will be completed in 2074.
The 60 year timeline allows radioactivity to decay naturally over time, providing a safer work environment for employees involved in the decontamination and dismantlement process. Cleaning and shipping costs are also less. In addition, the timeline allows the nuclear decommissioning trust fund to continue to grow and the Department of Energy to develop its long-term used fuel storage strategy for the United States.
Timeline of Activities
On Feb. 5, 2013, Duke Energy announced the decision to retire the Crystal River Nuclear Plant instead of continuing to pursue a first-of-its-kind repair to the plant’s containment building.
Once the decision was made, CR3 leaders focused on helping employees through the transition, benchmarking other decommissioning plants to glean best practices, forming industry partnerships, developing internal project controls and procedures and submitting various documents to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
- Feb. 20, 2013: Filed a certification letter with the NRC, ceasing operations and acknowledging permanent removal of fuel from the reactor vessel, starting the decommissioning time clock.
- June 3, 2013: Implemented an in-house Decommissioning Transition Organization to develop the schedule and estimated costs of the decommissioning.
- Aug. 1, 2013: Transitioned from Region II NRC oversight based in Atlanta, Ga., to Region I NRC oversight based in King of Prussia, Pa., with some exceptions, such as operator licensing and incident response (hurricane season). The NRC made this transition because staff in Region I have more experience with decommissioning plants whereas Region II staff are more focused on new plant construction.
- Sept. 26, 2013: Submitted the Radiological Emergency Response Plan revision license amendment request to the NRC. Ultimately, this means no radiological event at the plant would extend beyond the site boundary, affect the general public or require pre-planned assistance from county and state agencies. The revised plan also defines our SAFSTOR conditions from an emergency preparedness perspective until the plant is eventually decontaminated and dismantled.
- Oct. 31, 2013: Submitted the Permanently Defueled Technical Specifications license amendment request to the NRC. If approved, this submittal will allow us to greatly reduce the scope of our NRC license by eliminating or modifying items that only apply to an operating plant. For example, we could eliminate unnecessary license conditions, technical specifications, programs, manuals and reports.
- Dec. 2, 2013: Submitted the Post-Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report (PSDAR) to the NRC. The NRC requires decommissioning nuclear plants to submit the PSDAR within two years of filing their cessation of operations and permanent removal of the fuel from the reactor vessel letter. The PSDAR includes a description of the planned decommissioning activities, a schedule to complete those activities, a site-specific decommissioning cost estimate and a discussion of environmental impacts. The PSDAR also references CR3’s fuel management plan.
- March 28, 2014: Submitted an exemption request to the NRC to allow us to seek reimbursement from our nuclear decommissioning trust fund and allocate decommissioning activities to three categories: spent fuel management, license termination and site restoration. Florida customers paid into CR3’s nuclear decommissioning trust fund between 1977 and 2001. The Florida Public Service Commission placed these funds into three decommissioning categories: spent fuel management, license termination and site restoration. In contrast, the NRC regulation only includes reimbursement from the fund for license termination activities. Therefore, Duke Energy Florida requested an exemption from the regulation because spent fuel management and site restoration activities are legitimate decommissioning activities.
- Jan. 26, 2015: Received an NRC exemption to allow us to seek reimbursement from our nuclear decommissioning trust fund and allocate decommissioning activities to three categories: spent fuel management, license termination and site restoration.
- March 30 – 31, 2015: Received approval from the NRC to adjust CR3’s emergency plan to a level more appropriate for the lower risk presented by the plant’s decommissioning status. The NRC’s approval means the used nuclear fuel assemblies that have been stored on site since 1978 present minimal risk to the public, and no radiological event at the plant will extend beyond our site boundary, affect the general public or require pre-planned assistance from county and state agencies. Also, the 10-mile emergency planning zone and off-site facilities will no longer be needed.
History of 2009 and 2011 containment building delaminations
October 2009: The first delamination, or separation in the concrete, within CR3’s containment building occurred while workers were creating a 23-by-27 foot opening in the structure to allow the replacement of two 500-ton steam generators. The unit was already shutdown for scheduled refueling and maintenance when the damage occurred.
The company spent five years and tens of thousands of hours carefully planning the steam generator replacement project and followed industry-accepted procedures and models. Analysis has shown that the delamination could not have been predicted.
The root-cause analysis concluded that a redistribution of stresses on the containment wall caused the delamination following the containment opening activities. These activities created additional stress beyond the original containment design. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s) inspection confirmed these findings.
- March 2011: After the first delamination was successfully repaired, the company performed a year-long, first-of-a-kind engineering study to determine how the building would respond to re-tensioning, or re-tightening, the tendons that surround the containment building. The model indicated a 95 percent confidence factor that the re-tensioning sequence would be successful. However, during the final stages of re-tensioning, engineers discovered that a different area of the containment structure had delaminated during the 100th step of a 112 step re-tensioning sequence.
- July 2011: Special monitors on the containment building indicated surface spalling. Spalling occurs when a small outside layer of concrete breaks away from a larger area of a concrete wall. After investigating the spalling, engineers discovered delamination in a third area of the containment structure. No work activities were occurring on the building at the time.
- Following the 2011 delaminations: The company engaged outside engineering experts to perform an analysis of possible repair options. The consultants analyzed 22 repair options and ultimately narrowed those options to four. The company, along with independent experts, reviewed the four options for technical, construction and licensing feasibility. The experts also analyzed the risk, benefits and costs of each option. Later in 2011, the company selected a preferred repair option for further engineering study and technical review. The preferred repair option included removing and replacing the majority of the containment building concrete.
Used Nuclear Fuel Assemblies and Dry Cask
In 2014, the Duke Energy board of directors approved plans to build a dry cask storage facility at CR3 to store the plant’s used nuclear fuel assemblies. Crews are expected to start construction of the dry cask storage facility in 2015 and complete construction by 2017. All used nuclear fuel assemblies will be transferred from the fuel pool into dry casks by 2019. CR3 has safely stored its used nuclear fuel assemblies on site since its first refueling in 1978.
Constructing and using a dry cask storage system for used nuclear fuel assemblies is a safe and proven technology approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). All U.S. nuclear plants store their used nuclear fuel assemblies in fuel pools or in dry casks because the U.S. does not have a federal repository for used nuclear fuel assemblies.
Before any fuel assembly is loaded into the canisters, we are required to demonstrate to the NRC our readiness and ability to safely and properly handle the used nuclear fuel assemblies. A dry run of the entire loading process will be conducted, including canister preparation, fuel loading, welding activities (the top steel plate) and transferring the canister into a concrete module.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a dry cask storage facility?
Why are you building a dry cask storage facility?
How much will the project cost, and will you raise customer rates to pay for it?
What is the timeline of the project?
Will current employees work on the dry cask storage project?
What is the NRC’s involvement in the process?
Who is the dry cask contractor, and what technology of cask will be used?
Is this system used at any of Duke Energy’s other nuclear plants?
Focus on Employees
When we announced the decision to retire CR3, we remained committed to helping employees through the transition, retaining our nuclear talent and redeploying as many employees as possible to other positions within the company.
To help employees through the transition, we met them one-on-one to understand their career preferences. We asked whether they wanted to stay on site to fill a temporary position within the Decommissioning Transition Organization (DTO), to redeploy to another position within the company or to leave the company with severance benefits. In many cases, based on business needs, we were able to fulfill employee preferences.
We also offered one-on-one and group counseling, held internal job fairs with specific company work groups and hired an on-site recruiter to help employees navigate the hiring process.
About 150 employees remain on site to work in the DTO, not including security officers or contractors. About 280 employees have redeployed to other positions within the company and about 160 employees have left the company and were offered severance benefits. Most either retired or accepted a position with another company. In July 2015, CR3 will transition to a new SAFSTOR I organization, which will have approximately 75 full-time employees, not including security officers and contractors.
The Crystal River Energy Complex (CREC), which includes the Crystal River Nuclear Plant and four coal-fired units, has been a vital part of Duke Energy’s ability to meet customer energy demands around-the-clock for more than four decades.
We remain committed to the area as evidenced by our 2014 announcement to build a 1,640 megawatt clean-burning combined-cycle natural gas plant in Citrus County starting in early 2016.
We have also supported various local agencies with financial contributions and volunteerism. Some examples include the following:
Holiday Hope program
For more than a decade, employees and contractors at the CREC have been filling children’s holiday wish lists as part of the complex’s Holiday Hope program in partnership with the Citrus County Family Resource Center in Hernando. In 2014, workers, with significant contributions from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) 433, spread holiday cheer to 204 Citrus County children. Each child received 10 gifts to open on Christmas day; that’s a total of 2,020 individual packages. The cost to sponsor 204 children ranged between $20,000 and $30,000. Workers either used their own money to buy items on the children’s wish lists or participated in various grassroots fundraisers.
During the 2014 holidays, we donated 1,143 pounds of food to benefit Citrus County Blessings, a nonprofit organization that provides food to 1,250 public school children from local elementary, middle and high schools. The four-week food drive was a joint effort among CR3 workers and the plant’s on-site contractors – Precision Surveillance Corp. (PSC) and Securitas Security Services USA, Inc.
George Washington Carver Community Center construction project
Duke Energy’s Foundation Vice President Stick Williams and Florida State President Alex Glenn presented CR3 retiree Harold Walker and his board $20,000 in 2014 to help advance the George Washington Carver Community Center construction project in Crystal River. The center is an 8,000-square-foot building located on the same site where the first African-American, one-room wooden schoolhouse once stood in Crystal River. Harold is the project’s volunteer construction manager, and you will find him and his loyal volunteers almost every Saturday working to complete the project.
In September 2014, nearly three dozen Duke Energy employees picked up trash and other debris littering the banks of our intake canal. The Duke Energy In Action volunteer event was part of Citrus County’s 25th Annual Lakes, Rivers and Coastal Cleanup Save Our Waters campaign. In all, the team logged 140 man hours, picking up approximately 900 pounds of trash. Most items were common household trash, including 314 plastic beverage bottles, 95 glass bottles and 123 beverage cans.
United Way of Citrus County campaign
Every year, the CREC hosts grassroots fundraisers to benefit the United Way of Citrus County. The 2014 campaign included an ice cream social, bake sale, family fun night, tailgate party and other activities, raising $6,308.57 for the United Way of Citrus County. This amount does not include payroll contributions.
Dragon boat race
In 2014, nearly two dozen employees and their family members participated in a dragon boat race on Lake Hernando, helping to raise $7,000 for the Community Food Bank of Citrus County and Feeding America Tampa. The Community Food Bank is Citrus County’s only local food bank that also distributes food to more than 36 agencies. Feeding America is the largest domestic hunger relief organization in the country with more than 200 food banks.
Kings Bay cleanup
As part of a Duke Energy In Action volunteer event in 2013, approximately 120 Duke Energy Florida employees, including 27 employees from CR3, joined State President Alex Glenn and other company leaders to clean up Lyngbya algae from the bottom of Kings Bay in Crystal River. In all, the Florida team logged more than 700 person-hours and collected 12 tons of algae – setting records for the number of volunteers and amount raked in a single day.
Frequently Asked Questions
What happened that led to the decision to decommission CR3?
Why did the company choose to decommission, instead of repair, CR3?
Who is leading the decommissioning activities at CR3?
What does the decommissioning decision mean for CR3 employees?
What is CR3’s decommissioning strategy?
How much will the decommissioning cost?
Will you raise customer rates to pay for the decommissioning?
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