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Duke Energy accelerates decommissioning of retired Crystal River nuclear plant

Duke Energy Corp. has decided to accelerate decommissioning of the retired Crystal River Nuclear nuclear plant in Florida to 2027, the company announced May 30.

Duke Energy Florida LLC shut the nuclear plant in 2013 and previously scheduled to decommission the facility by 2074. The accelerated plan, subject to approval by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Florida Public Service Commission, calls for decommissioning work to begin in 2020 and end in 2027.

The company said it has a sufficient trust fund to accelerate the decommissioning without increasing customer bills. As of March 31, Duke Energy's trust fund had about $717 million.

Duke has also completed the initial phase of decommissioning, which places the plant to be in an ideal condition to attract bidders to complete the work.

Duke Energy Florida agreed to pay $540 million in disbursements to Accelerated Decommissioning Partners, a joint venture between Northstar Group Services Inc. and Orano Usa LLC, to perform decommissioning work. "The fixed-price contract will lock in today's prices, providing us greater cost certainty," said Catherine Stempien, Duke Energy's state president for Florida.

If the plan gets approval, Duke Energy will remain the NRC-licensed owner of the power plant, property and equipment, and will retain control of the trust fund. In turn, Accelerated Decommissioning Partners will become the NRC-licensed operator responsible for decommissioning the plant in compliance with all state and federal regulations. Accelerated Decommissioning Partners will also own the dry cask storage system assets.

The site of the nuclear plant is also home to two retired coal-fired units of the similarly named Crystal River power plant. Duke Energy said it reached a separate agreement with NorthStar Goup Services to start dismantling the two units in 2019 and complete it by 2023.