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Robert Trigaux

Federal regulator of nuclear power plants says it may slow license renewal for aging nukes




Wake up and good morning. The shuttered, under-repair Crystal River nuclear power plant owned by Progress Energy may have hit a new bump in the road toward recovery. Bloomberg News reports that limited staffing at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission may slow the agency in renewing licenses for existing nuclear power plants. (Above: Earlier repair work under way at the Crystal River nuclear power plant in Citrus County. Will Vragovic, St. Petersburg Times.)

Crystal River, shut down since September 2009, is broken and about to undergo some $2.5 billion in repairs. The trick is that the plant is old and slated to be retired after 40 years in 2016 -- except that Progress Energy, like other nuke operators, wants the NRC to renew its Crystal River  license for another 20 years.

That approval has not happened yet and, apparently, will be delayed further if and when it occurs. "There are resource limitations," Gregory Jaczko told Bloomberg. It may take a bit longer to get through the license renewal reviews, he said. Jaczko didn’t say that licenses are in danger of expiring as the commission reviews their applications. The agency has renewal applications pending for 14 reactors.

"A priority for the NRC next year" will be managing "precursors of declines in performance" at U.S. nuclear plants, Jaczko told Bloomberg. He noted that three nuclear plants regulated by the NRC also had extended closures in 2011. "That was something we haven’t seen in a long time," he said. Read the complete Bloomberg story.

One of those three is Crystal River.

Read my latest column on Progress Energy's contention the nuclear repairs are "too complex" to be handled in the media, but are costly enough to make customers pay for some of the extraordinary expense.

Read St. Petersburg Times' reporter Ivan Penn's investigative series on Progress Energy's controversial decision to pursue do-it-yourself repairs (which failed) at the plant (stories last to first); Here then here, then here, then here. More stories are coming.

-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, St. Petersburg Times, soon to become the Tampa Bay Times

[Last modified: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 9:23am]


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