Crippled Nuclear Reactor At Center of Duke-Progress Power Merger

By: Troy Kinsey Email
By: Troy Kinsey Email

August 13, 2012

You might call it an unwelcome welcome gift for Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers.

As his company takes over Progress Energy's crippled nuclear reactor, he has a big decision to make.

One that could affect hundreds of jobs, not to mention your power bill.

Rogers went before the Florida Public Service Commission today to talk about the reactor, which was damaged when its containment walls cracked during an upgrade three years ago.

Even more cracks appeared during a failed repair.

Now, Rogers says the bill to get the reactor back in operation has grown bigger than progress' estimate of 1.3 billion dollars.

Duke is now trying to get an insurance payout to cover that bill, but if it can't, the cost would have to be passed along to ratepayers.

Unlike Progress, it's not clear if Duke would be willing to let that happen.

In fact, Rogers is leaving open the possibility of retiring the nuclear plant, even if it means laying off laying off hundreds of workers.

"While we have not made a decision on whether to repair or retire the unit, we are absolutely committed to making the right decision for our customers and our investors," said Rogers.

That decision won't come until Duke attempts to hammer out its differences with the insurance company in the fall.

No matter the outcome, repairs- if they happen- would have to begin by the end of the year.

If they don't, Duke would have to refund 100 million dollars to ratepayers, who have already been charged in advance for the repair bill.

Beyond the lost jobs that would come with closing the nuclear reactor, Citrus County leaders worry about millions of dollars in lost tax revenue.

They say if that were to happen, services might have to be cut and property taxes might have to go up.

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