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Federal regulators say Duke Energy Florida can decommission nuclear plant faster

State regulators still need to sign off on the plan.

CRYSTAL RIVER — Duke Energy Florida received approval from federal regulators Wednesday to speed up decommissioning of its shuttered nuclear power plant.

The nuclear portion of the Crystal River plant was shut down after Duke’s predecessor, Progress Energy, botched a do-it-yourself repair that forced it to stop producing power in 2009.

The utility asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission last June to approve a shorter timeline for shutting down the power plant after it locked in a lower price for taking the plant apart and properly handling the nuclear fuel – $540 million – with contractor Accelerated Decommissioning Partners.

That amount will be paid for by the $734 million decommissioning trust for the plant, money collected from customers between 1977 and 2001. Current Duke Energy customers will not be charged.

Related: Duke Energy Florida asks to speed up Crystal River nuclear decommissioning

“Accelerating the decommissioning also allows for faster restoration and redevelopment of the nuclear plant property for Duke Energy’s reuse one day,” Heather Danenhower, spokeswoman for Duke Energy, said.

The move also may enable Duke to “return most of the unused trust fund dollars to customers sooner than its 60-year decommissioning model,” Danenhower said.

The Florida Public Service Commission still needs to approve the transaction between Duke Energy and Accelerated Decommissioning Partners

The plant is now scheduled to be decommissioned by 2027.

Once the structure is torn down, spent nuclear material is all that will remain and Accelerated Decommissioning Partners will own it.

The material will be housed in “dry cask storage" until a more permanent place is designated for it. There is currently no national repository for used nuclear fuel.