Duke gets delay on construction of Crystal River cooling tower

While Progress Energy Florida mulls the fate of the shut Crystal River Unit 3 nuclear facility, it on Nov. 9 got an approval from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to extend the deadline under an air permit to build a new cooling tower for that unit.

“On November 7, 2012, Progress Energy Florida, Inc. (PEF) requested an extension of the expiration date of air construction Permit No. 0170004-018-AC/PSD-FL-392 for the Crystal River Power Plant located in Citrus County north of Crystal River, west of U.S. 19 in Crystal River, Florida,” said the Nov. 9 DEP approval letter. “The submitted requests states that PEF is in need of an extension of the expiration date of the air construction permit (0170004-018-AC/PSD-FL-392) authorizing the construction of the South Cooling Tower. This proposed cooling tower was originally associated with the Crystal River 3 Uprate Project. As completion of that project continues to be postponed due to the unforeseen issues related to the containment structure delamination, construction of the new South Cooling Tower has not yet begun. PEF is requesting that the permit expiration date be extended by three years (until January 1, 2016) to accommodate the delay in the associated CR 3 Uprate Project. Based on the circumstances and information provided, the Department approves this request subject to the following requirement.”

A review of the BACT/RACT/ LAER Clearinghouse shows that the original design specification for the drift rate from the South Cooling Tower of no more than 0.0005% of the circulating water flow is still consistent with Best Available Control Technology (BACT), so no design changes are required in conjunction with this extension request, DEP added. However, if construction does not commence within 18 months of the effective date of this extension, a review of current representative BACT determinations for similar projects needs to be performed at that time to determine if the original design still constitutes BACT. If design standards change, the BACT determination will be revisited prior to commencing construction.

This permitting doesn’t affect the four coal-fired units at the Crystal River plant.

Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) took over PEF parent Progress Energy in July and is taking a fresh look at whether fixing the nuclear Unit 3 at Crystal River is worth the billions of dollars it would cost. Duke CEO Jim Rogers said during a Nov. 8 earnings call that deciding whether to repair or retire the 860-MW Crystal River Unit 3 remains one of Duke’s highest priorities.

The unit will be repaired “only if there is a high degree of confidence that the repair can be completed” within a reasonable and defined timetable and budget, Rogers indicated. The nuclear reactor has been offline since fall 2009 when cracks were discovered in the building during a regularly-scheduled outage to replace steam generators.

Earlier this year, Duke revealed that the Zapata consulting firm said repair appears technically feasible, though risks and technical issues remain. Cost estimates range from $1.5bn to $3.4bn, the latter being a worst-case scenario with a broader scope of work.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.