Accelerated Decommissioning Partners and Duke Energy on 1 October completed a transaction to start decontamination and dismantlement of the Crystal River nuclear power plant in Florida in 2020 instead of 2067.
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved the transfer of the nuclear plant's licence from Duke Energy to Accelerated Decommissioning Partners on 1 April, and the Florida Public Service Commission unanimously approved the transaction on 18 August.
Crystal River 3, an 860MWe pressurised water reactor was permanently shut down in 2013 and decommissioning was originally expected to take 50 years and to be completed by 2074.
The plant was taken offline in 2009 for a 20% uprate, but this was never completed. During the outage, Duke Energy (then Progress Energy Florida) damaged the containment wall around the reactor while trying to install a new steam generator. After one failed attempt to repair the containment wall, the cost of repairs became an issue during the 18 months it took Duke Energy to complete its $32 billion purchase of Progress Energy, which was completed in 2012.
Duke Energy originally planned in 2015 to defer decommissioning for 60 years under NRC’s SAFSTOR protocol, which also enables the site's NRC-mandated trust fund to build financial reserves to pay for the work. However, competition in the nuclear decommissioning sector has since driven prices down, and Duke believes fast-track D&D can be achieved within the budget of the $711-million trust fund.
Accelerated Decommissioning Partners, a joint venture of NorthStar Group Services and Orano USA, was selected in 2019 after four companies responded to a 2018 request for proposals.
"Our experienced team of decommissioning experts provides a turnkey solution to Duke Energy customers for a fixed price on a guaranteed schedule," said Scott State, CEO of Accelerated Decommissioning Partners. "We are committed to being good partners with Duke Energy, state and federal regulators and the local community."
Under the previous $540 million contract reached in May 2019, Duke Energy remains the NRC-licensed owner of the nuclear plant, property and equipment (except the dry cask storage facility assets), and retains ownership and control of the trust fund that pays for the decommissioning. Duke Energy will continue to have access to the site and will pay Accelerated Decommissioning Partners only for work completed.
Accelerated Decommissioning Partners now becomes the NRC-licensed operator responsible for decommissioning the plant in compliance with all state and federal regulations. Accelerated Decommissioning Partners also becomes responsible for operating and maintaining the on-site dry cask storage facility and owns the dry cask storage system assets, including the used nuclear fuel assemblies.
"The transaction has no impact on Duke Energy customer bills," said Catherine Stempien, Duke Energy's state president in Florida. "The fixed-price contract locks in today's prices, provides customers financial protection and transfers cost and schedule risks to Accelerated Decommissioning Partners. Successfully closing this transaction is an example of how we are making smart decisions that benefit our customers and company."
The complex will remain a Duke Energy industrial facility for decades to come. Accelerating the decommissioning of the nuclear plant allows for faster redevelopment of the plant's property. Duke Energy said it has not determined how it might repurpose the property, but added that it has no plans to sell it.
Decommissioning schedule for Crystal River 3
Between 2021 and 2026, Accelerated Decommissioning Partners will remove, package and ship shielded radioactive components, such as the reactor vessel, to an off-site licensed disposal facility and then demolish the nuclear plant's buildings.
When decontamination and dismantling work is completed in 2027, only the dry cask storage facility, which occupies less than two acres and houses used nuclear fuel assemblies, will remain.
Accelerated Decommissioning Partners will continue 24-hour security, emergency response and radiological and environmental monitoring programmes at the plant during and after the decommissioning process in compliance with state and federal requirements.
Photo: Crystal River nuclear plant is aiming for decommissioning by 2020 (Photo: Duke Energy)