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New hearing on status of Crystal River nuclear plant

State regulators have scheduled a hearing Monday to receive an update on the broken Crystal River nuclear plant, which continues to sit idle with its future uncertain.

Duke Energy and its local subsidiary, Progress Energy Florida, have yet to decide whether to repair the crippled plant or permanently shut down the reactor.

Eduardo Balbis, a member of the Public Service Commission, scheduled the hearing as part of an ongoing review of the nuclear plant.

In a settlement agreement reached last year with state regulators, the utility agreed to refund customers $100 million if the company decided to repair the plant but did not begin work by Dec. 31, 2012.

The utility already is refunding customers $288 million for replacement power while Crystal River sits offline. If the utility goes ahead with repairs, the additional $100 million would cover more replacement power, which costs about $300 million for each year the plant is idle.

The Crystal River nuclear plant went offline in fall 2009 for a maintenance and upgrade project to replace old steam generators. During the project, the plant's 42-inch thick concrete containment building cracked. An attempt to repair the problem and bring the plant back online led to more cracks.

A key part of the decision about Crystal River's future is whether the insurance company, known as NEIL, will cover any or all of the costs of repairing the plant.

So far, NEIL has been reluctant to pay for the repairs. Duke entered nonbinding negotiations with NEIL at the end of last year.

Suzanne Grant, a Duke spokeswoman, said the negotiations with NEIL are continuing.

Failure to reach an agreement could lead to a more formal, binding process this spring.

A report on the Crystal River plant by Duke Energy estimated the repair costs for the plant would run $1.5 billion to $3.4 billion plus the $300 million a year in replacement power. All told, the total bill for Crystal River could reach as much as $6 billion.

Ivan Penn can be reached at ipenn@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2332.

Listening in

The status update on the Crystal River nuclear plant will be at 10 a.m. Monday at Betty Easley Conference Center, Room 148, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee. Follow the hearing online at www.floridapsc.com.

New hearing on status of Crystal River nuclear plant 01/03/13 [Last modified: Thursday, January 3, 2013 9:24pm]
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