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Regulators terminate Duke Energy's Levy County nuclear licenses

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission terminated Duke Energy Florida's licenses last week for the proposed nuclear reactors at the utility's request. Pictured is outgoing Duke Energy Florida president Harry Sideris. [DIRK SHADD | Times, 2018]
Published May 4, 2018

ST. PETERSBURG — Regulators have finally closed the books on the Levy County nuclear project that never was. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission terminated Duke Energy Florida's licenses last week for the proposed nuclear reactors at the utility's request — more than a decade after the project was first proposed.

"Southern Alliance for Clean Energy applauds Duke Energy Florida for formally terminating the licenses for the Levy site," said Sara Barczak, regional advocacy director for the alliance, in a statement.

The action comes nine months after Duke announced it would no longer make customers pay for the nuclear facility. Duke customers had already paid $800 million on the plant that was never built. The St. Petersburg utility decided to shoulder the remaining $150 million for the project instead of passing it on to customers, saving rate payers about $2.50 on their monthly bills.

Related coverage: Duke Energy strikes deal to lower customer bills, boost solar>

Instead of nuclear, the utility will turn its focus to solar and natural gas.

"We anticipate an increase in solar energy in Florida and have included plans for the addition of over 700 megawatts of solar capacity in the next 10 years," Ana Gibbs, spokesperson for Duke, said in an email.

Inherited from Duke's predecessor, Progress Energy, the project had long been a source of tension with customers. It was first proposed by Progress Energy in 2006 as natural gas was expected to become more expensive and regulations were being considered to reduce carbon emission.

Progress Energy had asked customers to pay up front for the facility, promising the plant would reduce energy costs down the line. But after nearly $1 billion was sunk into the nuclear project, it was never built. In 2013, the venture was canned.

The site where the nuclear plant was supposed to be built is now approved for "unrestricted use."

Contact this reporter at mcarollo@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo.

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