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Duke Energy's $51.7 million charge to Florida customers for nuke costs is 'reasonable,' regulators say

Duke Energy's Crystal River nuclear plant, shown in this 2013 photo, was decommissioned. [Times]
Duke Energy's Crystal River nuclear plant, shown in this 2013 photo, was decommissioned. [Times]
Published Aug. 9, 2016

The average Duke Energy customer in Florida will pay roughly $1.57 a month next year in costs relating to the shuttered Crystal River nuclear power plant.

The state Public Service Commission agreed at its annual Nuclear Cost Recovery Clause hearing Tuesday that a request for $51.7 million by the utility was "reasonable and prudent." The money was spent on planned upgrades to the plant before damage was discovered in 2009 and the plant was shut down in 2013.

The nuclear cost recovery tab is just one element of the total rates charged to electric customers. Several other parts, including fuel — the largest component — will be filed with the commission in late August and early September.

The PSC meets in early November on those components, and after its decision, the total bill for 2017 will be known.

Duke customers are currently paying $1.76 on the average 1,000-kilowatt-hour bill for Crystal River costs. Last year, the PSC approved $56.5 million in costs. Next year, customers will be paying about 19 cents a month less.

Duke was replacing two 500-ton steam generators, which would have increased the output of the plant, in 2009 when workers damaged the containment building that surrounds the reactor vessel. The damage was so extensive that the utility determined it was better to retire the plant than to continue risky repair efforts.

At the same time, Duke was seeking a license to build two new nuclear reactors less than 10 miles north of the Crystal River plant in Levy County. Duke has shelved the project for the time being.

Duke Energy Florida's 1.7 million customers are now on the hook for up to $3.2 billion of the costs related to Crystal River and Levy County.

The utility will not seek to recover costs from the Levy effort next year.

Duke customers pay some of the highest residential electric rates in the state. Their typical bill for 1,000 kilowatt-hours is $111.26.

For the same electricity usage, the bill is $106.22 for Tampa Electric and $91.84 for Florida Power & Light.

Contact Jerome R. Stockfisch at jstockfisch@tampabay.com.