The permanent closure of the Crystal River nuclear power plant in Florida is one of the options being considered by owner Progress Energy as the costs of upgrading and repairing the single reactor there continues to rise.
|Crystal River (Image: Progress Energy)
The utility has been engaged in upgrading the 34-year-old plant, but has run into some unforeseen hurdles. Progress Energy has applied to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a licence extension to allow the 860 MWe pressurized water reactor to continue operating until 2036. The company has invested some $284 million between 2008 and 2010 in an extended power uprate project, which is intended to increase the gross output of the unit by 180 MWe, or 20%, upon its completion.
In September 2009, the plant was safely shut down for a routine maintenance and refueling outage, which also included the installation of two new steam generators and a new turbine generator. Although not part of the uprate project, a new independent spent fuel storage installation is also in development at the Crystal River site.
However, when the reinforced concrete containment structure was cut open to replace the two steam generators, delamination of the 1.07-metre thick concrete was discovered. This led to a major and prolonged repair task costing $150 million, plus $290 million for replacement power to December 2010. Progress Energy said that its insurance company has already paid a portion of these costs.
"The company is
committed to making
a solid business case
to support restarting
Jon Franke, Progress Energy
In March 2011, as the steel tendons within the plant's containment building were being retensioned, further delamination of the concrete containment structure was discovered. The network of horizontal and vertical tendons provides structural integrity to the concrete and steel containment building.
The plant had been due to restart in April 2011, but Progress Energy says it cannot now estimate when it will return to service.
The company has hired an engineering consultant to assess its options, the vast majority of which focus on repairing and restarting the plant. Progress Energy said that it is prudently evaluating all options, including the possibility of writing off the upgrade and decommissioning the plant. However, Jon Franke, vice president of Crystal River plant, told World Nuclear News, "The company is committed to making a solid business case to support restarting the plant."
Progress Energy expects to provide a status update to the state Public Service Commission at the end of June.
If the plant is decommissioned, replacement generating capacity will be needed. The company has plans for two new Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at Levy County in Florida, but these are not expected on line before about 2021. A combined construction and operation licence (COL) for these is scheduled for late 2012, according to the NRC.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News