Make us your home page

Progress Energy says plan to fix nuclear plant coming soon

Progress Energy plans to release by the end of the month its engineering proposal to repair the Crystal River nuclear plant. But the utility cannot yet answer a far bigger question: Where will it get the $1.3 billion to actually fix the facility?

Bill Johnson, Progress Energy's president and chief executive, said during a quarterly conference call with investors Thursday that he is "very confident that we will start (repairs) by the end of the year, if the decision is to repair.''

Progress' insurer, the Nuclear Electric Insurance Limited, continues to balk at paying for damage to the plant's 42-inch-thick concrete nuclear containment building. Johnson made no mention of any alternative financing plan if the insurance does not pay.

"We have not yet received a definitive determination from NEIL about insurance coverage," Johnson said, echoing his repeated statements over the past six months. "Our negotiations with NEIL continue."

Customers will have to pay much of the more than $1 billion Progress is paying to replace the low-cost power the Crystal River plant used to generate.

The containment building cracked during a project to replace the plant's old steam generators. Progress decided to manage the project itself instead of hiring one of two firms that successfully handled similar projects at other plants around the country.

Thursday's conference call highlighted the numerous hurdles the utility faces over the next several months, including federal approval of its pending merger with Duke Energy and its hopes of rebounding from falling earnings.

Progress announced its net income for the first quarter of 2012 fell $34 million below the same period a year ago. The company reported its net income for the first quarter totaled $150 million, or 51 cents a share, compared to $184 million, or 62 cents a share, in 2011.

Johnson explained in a statement about the earnings that "the extremely mild weather through the first quarter of 2012 — although certainly a welcome respite for our customers — resulted in significantly lower energy sales in the Carolinas."

Despite that decline, Johnson and Mark Muhlhern, Progress' chief financial officer, spoke optimistically about Progress' prospects over the remaining three quarters of the year.

The company sees some "encouraging trends in growth and usage as the economy continues to heal," Muhlhern said.

Some of those signs were in Florida, where the company gained 11,000 customers in the first quarter, compared to 8,000 in the first quarter of last year.

But Florida is also where Progress faces some of its biggest challenges.

In addition to the broken Crystal River plant, the utility announced this week that it was raising the estimated cost of its proposed Levy County nuclear plant.

Progress now projects the plant will cost as much as $24 billion, up from the last estimate of $22.4 billion. When it was originally proposed in 2006, the project was expected to cost between $4 billion to $6 billion.

What may help Progress is its pending merger with Duke Energy.

Johnson said the utilities are working on an agreement with regulators in the Carolinas. Federal regulators also must approve the merger, but so far have twice rejected the deal.

The merger could play a key role in determining whether Progress' plan to build the two-reactor nuclear plant in Levy County ever materializes.

Ivan Penn can be reached at or (727) 892-2332.

Progress Energy says plan to fix nuclear plant coming soon 05/03/12 [Last modified: Thursday, May 3, 2012 10:39pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Last steel beam marks construction milestone for Tom and Mary James' museum


    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom and Mary James on Wednesday signed their names to the last steel beam framing the 105-ton stone mesa that will be built at the entrance of the museum that bears their name: the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art.

    The topping-out ceremony of the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art was held Wednesday morning in downtown St. Petersburg. Mary James (from left), husband Tom and Mayor Rick Kriseman signed the final beam before it was put into place. When finished, the $55 million museum at 100 Central Ave. will hold up to 500 pieces of the couple's 3,000-piece art collection. [Courtesy of James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art]
  2. Heights Public Market to host two Tampa Bay food trucks


    TAMPA — The Heights Public Market announced the first two food trucks for its "rotating stall," which will feature new restaurants every four months. Surf and Turf and Empamamas will be rolled out first.

    Heights Public Market is opening this summer inside the Tampa Armature Works building.
[SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times file photo]

  3. Author Randy Wayne White could open St. Pete's biggest restaurant on the pier

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The story begins with Yucatan shrimp.

    St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, pilot Mark Futch, Boca Grande, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and author and businessman Randy Wayne White,  Sanibel, exit a Maule Super Rocket seaplane after taking a fight around Tampa Bay off the St. Petersburg waterfront, 6/28/17.  White and his business partners are in negotiations with the City of St. Petersburg to build a fourth Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille on the approach to the St. Petersburg Pier with a second event space on the pier according to White. The group met near Spa Beach after a ground breaking ceremony for the new pier. "We want to have our business open by the time the pier opens," said White. Other Dr. Ford restaurants are located on Sanibel, Captiva and Ft. Myers Beach. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
  4. Guilty plea for WellCare Health Plans former counsel Thaddeus Bereday


    Former WellCare Health Plans general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District …

    WellCare Health Plans former general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday, pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District of Florida stated Wednesday. [LinkedIn handout]
  5. DOT shows alternatives to former Tampa Bay Express toll lanes


    TAMPA — State transportation officials are evaluating at least a half-dozen alternatives to the controversial Tampa Bay interstate plan that they will workshop with the community over the next 18 months.

    Florida Department of Transportation consultant Brad Flom explains potential alternatives to adding toll lanes to Interstate 275 during a meeting Wednesday at the DOT’s Tampa office. Flom presented seven diagrams, all of which swapped toll lanes for transit, such as light rail or express bus, in the I-275 corridor from downtown Tampa to Bearss Avenue.