Florida PSC approves Duke $50 million request for paying for nuclear project

Cost recovery for shutting down Duke Energy Florida's Crystal River nuclear power plant will be discussed at Tuesday's Florida Public Service Commission hearing. Pictured is the reactor building at the Crystal River Nuclear Plant in 2011. | [WILL VRAGOVIC, Times]
Cost recovery for shutting down Duke Energy Florida's Crystal River nuclear power plant will be discussed at Tuesday's Florida Public Service Commission hearing. Pictured is the reactor building at the Crystal River Nuclear Plant in 2011. | [WILL VRAGOVIC, Times]
Published August 15 2017
Updated August 15 2017

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Public Service Commission approved Duke Energy Florida's request to recover $50 million related to its now-defunct Crystal River nuclear power plant.

The costs come from an "uprate" project associated with the nuclear facility, which would have increased power from the plant.

Though Duke formally filed for the recovery in May, the fixed amount was set as part of a 2013 settlement between Duke and the commission.

The costs will take effect from January to December 2018. However, because consumers have already been paying off related costs in recent years, their overall bills are expected to go down by 4 cents to $1.52 per 1,000 kilowatt hours — the typical number of kilowatt hours used for an average home.

Related coverage: Duke Energy seeks state permission to hike rates by average of $2.47 per month

However, several other costs such as fuel costs — which Duke will return to the commission to discuss over the next few months — could also affect customers' bills.

Customers won't have a firm idea of what their 2018 bills will be until about November.

Duke's Crystal River nuclear power plant was closed in 2013, a year after Duke acquired the plant's operator, Progress Energy. A DIY steam generator replacement that Progress Energy attempted in 2009 went awry, eventually rendering the plant unusable. Funds for the decommissioning — a process that takes decades — were already collected from customers between 1987 and 2001, though this could change if annual analysis of the trust that the funds are kept in deems it necessary in the future.

Related coverage: Duke Energy announces closing of Crystal River nuclear power plant

Because utilities are allowed to keep a portion of the funds spent on a nuclear project, Duke walked away with about $100 million following upgrades to the Crystal River plant.

What wasn't discussed at Tuesday's hearing is cost recovery for another nuclear power project Duke had proposed in Levy County.

When Duke bought Progress Energy, it also took over the construction of two nuclear reactors slated to be built in Levy. Duke ended up shutting down the $25-billion project because of high costs, which left Duke customers on the hook for a $1 billion bill.

Associated costs for the Levy project will be addressed on Oct. 25.

Contact Malena Carollo at [email protected] or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo on Twitter.

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