Crystal River Nuclear Plant

Overview

In July 2015, the decommissioning Crystal River Nuclear Plant, known as CR3, reached its SAFSTOR condition.

SAFSTOR is one of three decommissioning options approved by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and a common option selected by other retired nuclear plants.

With SAFSTOR, the plant is placed in a safe, stable condition and maintained in that state until it is decontaminated and dismantled at the end of the storage period.

Systems that are no longer needed are drained, de-energized and secured. However, various activities continue, such as 24-hour security operations and preventative and corrective maintenance on certain systems. Though simplified to reflect the condition of the plant, security and emergency response plans as well as radiological and environmental monitoring programs also continue throughout the decommissioning.

Timeline

The schedule for the plant’s decommissioning activities uses the 60 years allowed by Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulation. The unit will remain in SAFSTOR until site restoration activities are completed in 2074.

The 60-year timeline allows radioactivity to decay naturally over time. This provides a safer work environment for employees involved in the decontamination and dismantlement and reduces cleaning and shipping costs. The timeline also 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 U.S.

Duke Energy may modify this timeline. However, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission must be notified in writing before performing any significant decommissioning activity inconsistent with the decommissioning plan.

Cost

The estimated cost funded from the Nuclear Decommissioning Trust Fund is $1.18 billion in 2013 dollars. With the SAFSTOR option, the fund is sufficient to pay for the decommissioning without increasing customer bills. However, annual analysis will be required. 

Decommissioning decision 

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.

Plant History

The Crystal River Nuclear Plant went into service March 13, 1977, generating on average 860 megawatts of energy and helping to supply reliable and clean energy to approximately 1.8 million customers in Florida.

The nuclear plant is located at the 5,100-acre Crystal River Energy Complex, which is also home to four coal-fired units, a Mariculture Center (fish hatchery and grower of eelgrass) and the new Citrus combined-cycle natural gas plant construction project.

Decommissioning Process

Decommissioning a nuclear plant is significantly different from other industries. It is a well-defined process with a high level of engagement and oversight by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. 

Nuclear reactors 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 Nuclear Regulatory Commission requirements of an operating reactor can only be eliminated through a series of license amendment requests.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission 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 materials are removed or decontaminated to a level that permits release of the property and termination of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission license. 
  • Safe storage (SAFSTOR) (also called delayed decontamination): Generally, this involves placing the facility in a safe storage configuration, requiring limited staffing to monitor plant conditions, until the eventual decontamination and dismantling activities occur, usually in 40 to 60 years. 
  • Entombment (ENTOMB): Under the ENTOMB option, radioactive materials 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 Nuclear Regulatory Commission-licensed facilities have requested the ENTOMB option. 
Duke Energy has selected the SAFSTOR decommissioning option, a common option selected by other retired nuclear plants. The schedule for the nuclear plant's decommissioning activities uses the 60 years allowed by Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulation. The unit safely reached its SAFSTOR condition in July 2015.

Timeline

  • Feb. 20, 2013: Filed a certification letter with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 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. 
  • Dec. 2, 2013: Submitted the Post-Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires decommissioning nuclear plants to submit this report within two years of filing the cessation of operations and permanent removal of the fuel from the reactor vessel letter. The report 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 report also references the plant’s fuel management plan.
       Post-Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report
       Site-Specific Decommissioning Cost Estimate

  • Jan. 26, 2015: Received a Nuclear Regulatory Commission exemption allowing Duke Energy to seek reimbursement from the Nuclear Decommissioning Trust Fund and allocate decommissioning activities to three categories: spent fuel management, license termination and site restoration. Florida customers paid into the trust fund between 1977 and 2001. This exemption was submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in March 2014. 
  • March 30 – 31, 2015: Received approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to adjust the plant’s emergency plan to a level more appropriate for the lower risk presented by the plant’s decommissioning status. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s approval means the used nuclear fuel assemblies stored on site since 1978 present minimal risk to the public. No radiological event at the plant will extend beyond the 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 are no longer needed. This license amendment request was submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in September 2013. 
  • July 1, 2015: Implemented an in-house SAFSTOR I organization to safely and cost-effectively transfer all used nuclear fuel assemblies from the fuel pool into dry casks by early 2018 and achieve dry dormancy in 2019. 
  • Sept. 4, 2015: Received approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to revise the technical specifications and license to reflect the decommissioning status of the plant. This eliminated or modified criteria only applicable to operating plants. The license amendment request was submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in October 2013.
  • Dec. 5, 2016: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the required emergency plan needed to support moving used nuclear fuel assemblies from the fuel pool into the dry cask storage facility. The emergency plan was submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in August 2015.
  • March 22, 2017: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the required emergency plan needed to support the dry cask storage facility when all used nuclear fuel assemblies have been moved from the fuel pool into the dry cask storage facility in early 2018. The emergency plan was submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in May 2016.
  • June 27, 2017: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued technical specifications for the plant when all used nuclear fuel assemblies have been moved from the fuel pool into the dry cask storage facility in early 2018. This removes many of the license conditions and all fuel-related technical specifications. This license amendment request was submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in August 2016.
  • Jan. 15, 2018: Duke Energy notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that the used fuel pool at the decommissioning Crystal River Nuclear Plant has no fuel in it for the first time in 40 years. In January 2018, crews finished loading the last dry shielded canister filled with used nuclear fuel assemblies into its horizontal storage module – marking the end of a 41-month project.
  • Feb. 14, 2018: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the security plan that aligns requirements with the plant's status as a dry cask storage facility. This allows the decommissioning team to reduce costs to help ensure continued sufficiency of the Nuclear Decommissioning Trust Fund. This license amendment request was initially submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in May 2016.

History of 2009 and 2011 containment building concrete separations

  • October 2009: The first delamination, or separation of concrete, within the plant’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 shut down 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 showed the delamination could not have been predicted. The root-cause analysis concluded 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 inspection confirmed these findings.
  • March 2011: After the first concrete separation was successfully repaired, the company performed a year-long, first-of-its-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 with 95 percent confidence the re-tensioning sequence would be successful. However, during the final stages of re-tensioning, engineers discovered another concrete separation in a different area of the containment structure 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 a third concrete separation in another area of the containment structure. No work activities were occurring on the building at the time. 
  • Following the 2011 concrete separations: 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. Company and 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. An independent review commissioned in 2012 confirmed repairing the containment building was technically feasible but included significant risks that could raise the cost of the repair and extend the schedule significantly. Therefore, Duke Energy determined that retiring the plant was in the best interests of customers and shareholders.

Dry Cask Storage at Crystal River

Overview

The used fuel pool at the decommissioning Crystal River Nuclear Plant has no fuel in it for the first time in 40 years. In January 2018, crews finished loading the last dry shielded canister filled with used nuclear fuel assemblies into its horizontal storage module – marking the end of a 41-month project.

A dry cask storage facility, called an independent spent fuel storage installation, is self-contained and stores used nuclear fuel assemblies without power supplies, cooling water, pumps or motors. The system is safe, proven and licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It is also designed to withstand man-made and natural disasters, including tornadoes and hurricanes.

Crews completed the project a month earlier than expected and within the authorized budget. The team also maintained a strong safety record – logging more than 1,400 days working safely.

The project created about 350 temporary jobs during its height.

Benefits

Because the dry cask storage facility resides on an acre and a half, the decommissioning team will be able to further shrink the plant’s footprint – reducing costs and helping ensure continued sufficiency of the Nuclear Decommissioning Trust Fund. Customers paid into this fund between 1977 and 2001. Duke Energy believes the Nuclear Decommissioning Trust Fund, including future growth of the fund, will be sufficient to decommission the plant without increasing customer rates. However, annual analysis will be required.

Having all of the fuel in the dry cask storage facility also better positions Duke Energy to eventually transfer the fuel to the U.S. Department of Energy for permanent storage. The Department of Energy is responsible for managing and disposing the nation’s used nuclear fuel.

Project timeline

  • August 2014: The Duke Energy Board of Directors approved the dry cask storage project.
  • August 2015: Visible construction of the dry cask storage facility started.
  • May 2017: Crews completed construction of the dry cask storage facility.
  • June 2017: Crews started moving used nuclear fuel assemblies from the fuel pool into dry casks.
  • January 2018: Crews moved the last nuclear fuel assembly from the fuel pool into the dry cask storage facility.
Duke Energy would have needed to build this dry cask storage facility regardless of the decision to retire the plant because the plant’s fuel pool had nearly reached capacity.

Focus on Employees

CR3 employees

When Duke Energy announced the decision to retire the nuclear plant, the company remained committed to helping employees through the transition, retaining nuclear talent and placing as many employees as possible in other positions within the company.

To help employees through the transition, human resources representatives met with employees one-on-one to understand their career preferences. HR representatives asked employees whether they wanted to stay on-site to fill a temporary position on the decommissioning team, to be placed in another position within the company or to leave the company with severance benefits. In most cases, the company was able to fulfill employee preferences.

Duke Energy 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.

Current Status

Duke Energy successfully placed about 400 of the 600 employees impacted by the decision to retire the plant. More than 300 employees were placed in other positions within Duke Energy, and about 100 employees are part of the SAFSTOR I organization, not including contractors. The majority of employees who left the company either retired or accepted a position with another company. 

These employee numbers will remain stable through mid-2019.


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Frequently Asked Questions

  • 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 original damage, additional concrete separations were discovered in two different areas of the containment building in 2011.

  • After completing a comprehensive, months-long analysis of costs, risks and other factors, the company determined that retiring the plant was in the best interests of customers and shareholders. An independent review commissioned in 2012 confirmed 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. Duke Energy announced its decision to retire the nuclear plant on Feb. 5, 2013.

  • In July 2015, Duke Energy implemented an in-house SAFSTOR I organization staffed with approximately 70 employees, excluding security officers and contractors. The SAFSTOR I organization safely and cost-effectively transferred all used nuclear fuel assemblies from the fuel pool into a dry cask storage facility in January 2018. Through mid-2019, the team will continue disconnecting equipment no longer needed and continue removing and shipping non-fuel radiological components and other materials. The team will also process about 400,000 gallons of fuel pool water. Though simplified to reflect the condition of the plant, security and emergency response plans as well as radiological and environmental monitoring programs will continue throughout the decommissioning.

  • Duke Energy has selected the SAFSTOR decommissioning option for its Crystal River Nuclear Plant – one of three options approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and a common option selected by other retired nuclear plants. With SAFSTOR, the facility is placed in a safe, stable condition and maintained in that state until the facility is decontaminated and dismantled at the end of the storage period.

  • The schedule for the nuclear plant’s decommissioning uses the 60 years allowed by Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulation. The unit was safely and cost-effectively placed into a SAFSTOR condition in July 2015. The unit will remain in that state (called dormancy) until the large component removal activities begin in 2068. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission 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 and reducing cleaning and shipping costs. The timeline also 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 U.S.
  • The Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires nuclear plants to set aside funds for their eventual decommissioning. The estimated cost funded from the Nuclear Decommissioning Trust Fund is $1.18 billion (in 2013 dollars). This includes approximately $265 million for spent fuel management, $862 million for license termination and $52 million for site restoration.

  • Customers paid into the Nuclear Decommissioning Trust Fund between 1977 and 2001. Duke Energy believes the fund, including its future growth, will be sufficient to decommission the plant without increasing customer rates. However, annual analysis will be required.