Over the next two weeks, Duke Energy customers will get a couple of chances to ask questions about the process of shutting down the Crystal River nuclear plant.
Duke will give its perspective Thursday during an "open house" set up similar to a trade show to provide information about the description, cost estimate and schedule for the decommissioning of the nuclear plant.
Then a week later, on Jan. 16, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold a formal public hearing to discuss Duke's decommissioning plan with the public.
The NRC announced its hearing first. Duke then issued a news release about its own meeting, promising a free event at which experts will be available to answer questions and "light refreshments will be served."
The meeting allows the utility, which has 1.7 million customers in Florida, to speak to the public on its decommissioning plan.
"The purpose of the open house is to increase awareness and understanding of the decommissioning plan submitted to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission," the utility wrote in its news release.
The NRC hearing does not include comment from the utility. It's more an opportunity for federal regulators "to discuss and accept public comments regarding the Crystal River unit 3 nuclear generating station post-shutdown decommissioning activities report," the agency stated.
Duke announced in February that it would permanently close the Crystal River nuclear plant after workers botched an upgrade project in 2009 to replace old steam generators.
Progress Energy, which later merged with Duke, cut into the 42-inch-thick concrete reactor containment building to remove steam generators. Though the procedure was not unusual, Progress' decision to self-manage the project had never been done before.
The reactor containment building cracked. An attempt to repair the crack and bring the plant back online led to more cracks. The failed project and related expenses are still costing Duke's customers as much as $1.7 billion.
Duke projects it will cost an additional $1.2 billion to completely decommission Crystal River. That cost is expected to be covered by the plant's decommissioning account, which customers already funded.
If costs exceed the $1.2 billion, customers could be assessed more money.
Ivan Penn can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2332.