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Robert Trigaux

At Progress Energy's nuke plant under repair, delays in restart dates grow common




Wake up and good morning. Okay.... Progress Energy once again says it will delay the restart of its one and only nuclear power plant in Florida -- at Crystal River north of Tampa Bay until the first quarter of 2011. Obviously we don't want a rush job (as we've said here before) on the repair of a crack inside one of the 42-inch-thick concrete walls that house the reactor. But Progress Energy has set multiple timetables before indicating when the nuke plant will be up and running, and it has missed all of them. The price tag so far? About a quarter billion dollars in repair and outage costs.

Photo above: The gap, on the left of this image next to cylindrical tendons, is about 9 inches deep inside the containment wall at the Crystal River nuclear plant.

The further delay, Progress Energy says in this new press release, "reflects the additional time required to complete computer analysis that is needed to determine the correct sequence to re-tighten a network of hundreds of horizontal and vertical tendons that provide structural integrity inside the walls of the concrete-and-steel containment building."

This suggests two things. First, Progress Energy has to replace all the electricity not being generated by its nuclear power plant -- now shut down for a whopping 14 months so far -- with more expensive power bought from other sources. Some of those extra costs get passed on to customers. And second, it raises at the least more questions about the company's rising price tag on its long proposed and even longer delayed plans to build a new twin nuclear power plant in Levy County, just north of the existing one on the border of Citrus County.

Consider this track record:

* Oct. 8, 2009: "The plan was to shut down the Crystal River nuclear power plant from October to December (2009). Even with the gap, Progress Energy may have the plant running by December (2009)," a spokeswoman said. Read more here.

* Feb 3, 2010: "Repairs to a cracked reactor building containment wall could keep the Crystal River nuclear plant off line until midyear." Read more here.

* May 6, 2010: "Instead of coming back online by midyear, the plant is expected to return to service in the third quarter, Progress Energy president and chief executive officer Bill Johnson said." Read more here.

* Sept. 3, 2010: "Repairs at the plant are underway and Progress Energy has said it expects to restart the plant in the fourth quarter of this year." Read more here.

Now we're pushing into early 2011 for a restart date.

Florida Power placed an order to build Crystal River in February, 1967, and it entered commercial service in March, 1977. Progress Energy (which bought Florida Power a decade ago) has applied to extend its license 20 years beyond the initial 40 year period.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist



[Last modified: Wednesday, December 1, 2010 6:53am]


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