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Robert Trigaux

Today, media tour Progress Energy's Crystal River nuclear power plant, shut for repairs




Above: Progress Energy shows a delamination or separation in the concrete in the wall of the building housing its Crystal River 3 nuclear power plant. Courtesy of Progress Energy.

Wake up and good morning. In the wake of the Japanese nuclear disaster, Progress Energy reached out earlier this month to the Carolina reporters and photographers to tour its Brunswick Nuclear Plant in Southport, N.C. Such tours are rare, to say the least, and power companies since the 9/11 attacks -- when already tight security was beefed up even more -- have been reluctant to open their nuke plant doors to the press. But five hours, the Carolina media got to see everything from spent fuel pools and dry cask storage areas, where rods are stored after spending five years in the pools. Here's coverage of that event from the StarNews out of Wilmington, N.C. (Of interest, the Brunswick plant is reportedly built along similar lines as the troubled ones in Japan.)

Now it's Florida's turn. Today, about two dozen Tampa Bay area reporters and media are scheduled to tour the Crystal River 3 nuclear power plant just north of Crystal River in Citrus County. Three St. Petersburg Times news media are part of that tour.

There is a difference. A big one. While Progress Energy's Brunswick plant is operational, the Crystal River plant -- -the company's one and only nuclear power plant in the Sunshine State -- has been shut down since September 2009. It has suffered a series of "delaminations" or gaps in the concrete shell of the building that houses the nuclear reactor. Attempts to repair those delaminations are under way but so far have not been successful. Progress Energy expects to release an updated engineering report on the plant soon that will suggest a course of action on trying to bring the plant back online at some undetermined date.

The trick, of course, is that the nuclear power plant is a mainstay of the electricity production of Progress Energy in Florida. Without the plant producing lower-cost electricity, Progress Energy has to purchase that electricity from other  sources at far greater expense than if it produced it at Crystal River 3. Plus, the sheer cost of repairing a complex problem like delamination is also costing many millions. Some of those costs are covered by insurance and some of it will simply be passed on to Progress Energy customers. The combined expense is expected to exceed half a billion dollars.

Let's see what the reporters on the tour have to say after their in-person visit.

-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, St. Petersburg Times

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 14, 2011 7:49am]


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