In May 2019, Duke Energy announced a plan
to decommission the Crystal River Nuclear Plant by 2027 instead of 2074 and to contract with Accelerated Decommissioning Partners, a joint venture between NorthStar Group Services and Orano USA, to perform the work.
Decommissioning a nuclear plant is highly regulated and involves removing, packaging and shipping radioactive materials, such as the reactor vessel, to a licensed facility and then demolishing buildings.
Twenty-four-hour security, emergency response and radiological and environmental monitoring programs continue during and after decommissioning.
In April 2020, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved
the license transfer from Duke Energy to Accelerated Decommissioning Partners, marking a positive step forward in the approval process. Duke Energy also asked the Florida Public Service Commission to approve the contract, and that process is ongoing.
If approved, decommissioning work will start in 2020 and be completed in 2027 – nearly 50 years sooner than originally planned.
Benefits and protections
Accelerating the nuclear plant’s decommissioning has several benefits.
The fixed-price contract locks in today’s prices, provides Duke Energy customers financial protection and transfers cost-and-schedule risks to Accelerated Decommissioning Partners.
Accelerating the decommissioning also allows for faster restoration and redevelopment of the nuclear plant property for Duke Energy’s reuse one day and a potential opportunity to return most of the unused trust fund dollars back to customers sooner than the 60-year decommissioning model.
Duke Energy is pursuing accelerated decommissioning for two reasons.
First, the trust fund that pays for the decommissioning is currently sufficient to accelerate the plant's decommissioning without increasing customer bills.
Second, Duke Energy has cost-effectively completed the initial phase of decommissioning, placing the plant in an ideal condition to attract bidders to complete the work.
Increased competition in the industry has lowered decommissioning costs, making the accelerated model financially feasible.
If regulators approve the transaction, Duke Energy will remain the Nuclear Regulatory Commission-licensed owner of the nuclear plant, property and equipment and retain ownership and control of the trust fund that pays for the decommissioning.
In turn, Accelerated Decommissioning Partners will become the Nuclear Regulatory Commission-licensed operator responsible for decommissioning the plant in compliance with all state and federal regulations.
Accelerated Decommissioning Partners will also own the dry cask storage system assets, including the used nuclear fuel assemblies, and operate and maintain the dry cask storage facility.
A dry cask storage facility is self-contained and stores used nuclear fuel assemblies in steel canisters housed in large concrete structures without power supplies, cooling water, pumps or motors. The system is safe and licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Owning the dry cask storage system assets closely aligns with Accelerated Decommissioning Partners' business strategy, and selling these assets allows Duke Energy to transfer all aspects of used fuel management, including operating and maintenance costs.
Duke Energy is comfortable selling the dry cask storage system assets because all owners of nuclear plants follow the same regulations. Accelerated Decommissioning Partners will be required to implement Nuclear Regulatory Commission license requirements in the same way Duke Energy implements these requirements.
On Feb. 5, 2013, Duke Energy announced its decision to retire
the nuclear plant instead of pursuing a first-of-its-kind repair to the plant's containment building.
While replacing two 500-ton steam generators during a scheduled maintenance and refueling outage in 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 concrete separations were discovered in two different areas of the containment building in 2011.
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 showed that the separations of concrete could not have been predicted.
The Crystal River Nuclear Plant, known as CR3, operated from 1977 to 2009. The plant produced about 860 megawatts of clean energy, helping to serve millions of Floridians.
The nuclear plant is located at the 5,100-acre Crystal River Energy Complex, home to the new Citrus Combined Cycle Station, two operating coal-fired units, two retired coal-fired units and a mariculture center that cultivates and then releases fish into the Gulf of Mexico.