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State regulators approve Duke plan to decommission Crystal River nuclear plant

The deal was approved without the extra consumer protections requested by the Office of Public Counsel.

State regulators unanimously approved a deal Tuesday to allow Duke Energy Florida to decommission its Crystal River nuclear plant ahead of schedule without extra protections for customers.

The approval by the Florida Public Service Commission means that Duke Energy locked in a $540 million price tag for a contractor to dismantle the nuclear portion of the plant by 2027, about 50 years sooner than scheduled. That price is about half as much as projected.

Duke Energy's predecessor, Progress Energy, tried a do-it-yourself repair on the reactor building, which cracked the 42-inch-thick walls.

Much of the money would be paid to the contractor, Accelerated Decommissioning Partners, over the first five years. The money would be drawn from a nearly $660 million trust fund that Duke Energy customers paid into between 1977 and 2001.

But the Office of Public Counsel, which advocates for utility consumers, previously voiced concerns that if the contractor didn’t finish the job or needed more money, customers would be left to foot a higher bill.

To that end, they asked for increased monitoring of the project, such as requiring monthly reports instead of annual ones and appointing a third party to monitor the progress. The office also asked the Public Service Commission to release the roughly $100 million in unused money back to consumers.

But the commission’s staff said in their recommendation that those protections are “unnecessary and may prevent the deal from closing.” Accelerated Decommissioning’s parent company had also said those conditions would require the deal to be renegotiated.

Aside from one technical question by Commissioner Andrew Fay, there was no debate before the vote to approve the deal.

Times staff writer Malena Carollo contributed to this report.