Monday, May 21, 2018
Opinion

John Romano: When it comes to Crystal River nuclear plant, where is the truth?

Quite some time ago, September of 2009 to be exact, the good folks at your local energy company had a bit of a nuclear mishap.

Nothing serious, mind you. Heck, it was hardly worth mentioning. And so, for the most part, they didn't. That is, until the Nuclear Regulatory Commission decided to send a special inspection team to Crystal River to investigate this crack in a wall.

Not to worry, the electric company insisted. We should have it fixed and back in operation by the end of 2009.

In retrospect, this doesn't mean the Progress Energy people were purposefully misleading anyone. Maybe they were just optimistic.

• • •

Quite some time ago, October of '09 to be exact, the big bosses at your local energy company were talking to investment analysts on a conference call.

They were asked for details on this cracked wall business. The Progress Energy CEO at the time explained they had been cutting a hole in a building to replace equipment when the crack showed up.

"This is a pretty standard technique that has been used many times,'' he explained.

Yes, a similar technique had been used at other plants. But always by experts. And always following a specific formula. Progress bypassed the experts and used its own cost-cutting formula.

In retrospect, this doesn't mean the CEO was fibbing. Maybe he just had a different perspective.

• • •

Some time ago, December of 2010 to be exact, your local energy company announced the repair of its Crystal River nuclear plant had hit a snag.

This was the third time the company had pushed back its operational target date. Not to worry, the energy folks assured.

"We want to get it right the first time,'' a spokesperson said.

Turns out, a second wall cracked while the first was being repaired. And then a third wall cracked before the second could be repaired. Both cracks were larger than the first.

In retrospect, this doesn't mean Progress Energy bungled the repair. Maybe it was just really complex.

• • •

Some time ago, June of 2011 to be exact, the CEO of your local energy company said it was still prudent to fix the Crystal River plant.

Even as total repair estimates climbed as high as $2 billion. Even if this type of repair had never been attempted in the U.S. Even if Crystal River's operating license was expiring in five years. Even if nuclear energy plants were being phased out around the country.

A year later, when Progress merged with Duke Energy, the CEO was cleaning out his desk within hours.

In retrospect, it didn't mean he had messed up. Maybe it was just time for a change.

• • •

A short time ago, Monday morning to be exact, the state Public Service Commission was told your local energy conglomerate was negotiating with an insurance company to determine who was responsible for repair bills.

Nobody actually believes the Crystal River plant will ever be repaired, but hundreds of millions have already been spent along the way.

In retrospect, it doesn't mean your energy company failed you.

But that would be my guess.

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