NRC panel considers environmental review of Duke Levy nuclear project

Two environmental groups will get a chance to challenge the adequacy of an environmental review for a proposed Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) nuclear power plant in Florida before a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) panel on Oct. 31.

The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) will hold a hearing in Bronson, Fla., concerning a challenge to the combined construction and operating license (COL) application for two new nuclear power reactors in Levy County, Fla., NRC said Oct. 10.

The planned two-day evidentiary hearing involves claims by the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) and the Ecology Party of Florida, have filed a legal challenge opposing the application.

The groups contend that NRC’s final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) fails to adequately analyze and discuss impacts on wetlands, floodplains, special aquatic sites, and other waters associated with the site. This challenge will be the sole subject of the evidentiary hearing.

Progress Energy, which merged with Duke in July, had filed a new nuclear plant application with NRC in the summer of 2008 to build two new Westinghouse AP 1000 reactors at a site in Levy County that’s about 10 miles northeast of Crystal River, Fla.

The Crystal River 3 nuclear plant remains offline since cracks were discovered in concrete in September 2009. Duke Energy is still studying whether to repair and restart that plant, or look to replace the generation through other means.

The Levy project also faces a challenge in another forum, the Florida Supreme Court. There, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) has challenged state policy to allow utilities to recoup certain costs incurred before new nuclear power facilities ever generate electricity.

A Progress Energy Florida spokesperson said the nuclear cost recovery clause in Florida actually saves ratepayers money in the long run via reduced interest costs. The spokesperson also said that most cost recovery would still not occur until after the nuclear plant actually starts operating.

The Levy County project could cost between $19bn and $24bn, the utility representative said.

The company hopes to secure the federal license for Levy County in 2013 and bring the first of the two new reactors online in 2024. The second would go into operation about 18 months after the first, the spokesperson said.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.