Progress Energy continues work towards nuclear plant fix

By Troy Kinsey, Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, July 14, 2011

Progress Energy is still working to keep its Crystal River nuclear power plant open for business.

Under a plan Progress Energy officials unveiled Thursday before the Public Service Commission, the bill to revamp the facility could cost as much as $1.3 billion and take several years to repair.

Progress Energy says the repair bill is far less than the cost of the energy it would have to buy - and charge consumers for - to replace the generating capacity it would lose if the plant were permanently closed.

"Every year the plant's in service, our customers actually save more than $300 million in fuel costs, so when you look at the long-term operations of the plant, there is a significant financial benefit to repairing the plant and returning it to service," said Tim Leljedal with Progress Energy.

Critics warn that aside from the cost, this kind of repair job has never been done before anywhere in the world. That's why Florida's taxpayer-funded public counsel is asking regulators to hold off on approving the plan.

"The customers want this to be a successful operation that the company undertakes if they follow through on the repair," said Charles Rehwinkel, with Florida Deputy Public Counsel. "But, to say that it's prudent for them to do it when there are a lot of unknowns, I don't think is necessarily a quick hearing process."

The plant has been offline since 2009 because of cracks in the outer walls.

If the company gets the approval to make repairs, the Crystal River facility could come back online in 2014.