Crystal River to be decommissioned 50 years early

Accelerated Decommissioning Partners agrees $540m deal with Duke Energy to decommission Florida plant by 2027.

The Crystal River nuclear plant along Florida’s Gulf Coast, before Duke Energy shut it down in 2013. Courtesy: Duke Energy

Duke Energy has announced plans to decommission the previously retired Crystal River nuclear plant in Florida by 2027 – nearly 50 years sooner than originally scheduled.

If approved by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Florida Public Service Commission, decommissioning work will begin in 2020 and end in 2027.

To perform the work, Duke Energy has contracted with Accelerated Decommissioning Partners (ADP), a joint venture formed in 2017 between NorthStar Group Services and Orano USA (formerly AREVA Inc.) that has decommissioned more than 10 NRC-licensed nuclear reactor and laboratory sites in the U.S.

If approved, Duke Energy will remain the NRC-licensed owner of the nuclear plant, property and equipment and retain ownership and control of the trust fund that pays for the decommissioning, which stood at $717 million as of March 31, 2019.

ADP will become the NRC-licensed operator responsible for decommissioning the plant and will also own the dry cask storage system assets, including the used nuclear fuel assemblies, and operate and maintain the on-site dry cask storage facility.

ADP CEO Scott State told Nuclear Energy Insider that the value of the fixed-price contract with Duke Energy is $540 million.

“We will draw from our considerable expertise to safely and efficiently complete the decommissioning work at Crystal River 3 by 2027,” State said.

“It is important to note, however, that while the deal with Duke accelerates the commencement of active decommissioning from 2067 to 2020, the approximately seven-year timeline anticipated for the actual work of decommissioning remains unchanged. By starting that work decades sooner than originally planned, we will finish it sooner as well.”


Source: EIA, September 2018.

Increased competition

Duke Energy is fast-tracking decommissioning due to the heathy balance of the trust fund and successful completion of an initial phase of decommissioning that has made the plant more attractive to bidders. Plus, increased competition has decreased decommissioning costs.

Duke Energy’s 5,100-acre Crystal River Energy Complex is located 85 miles north of Tampa. The complex is home to the new Citrus Combined Cycle Station, two operating coal-fired units and two retired coal-fired units. Duke Energy has not determined how it might repurpose the property but has no plans to sell it.

In October 2018, NorthStar was approved the transfer of the Vermont Yankee plant operating license from Entergy by the U.S. NRC, which included the dry cask Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI).

The approval followed a landmark 17-month review process that marked a significant step forward for the U.S. decommissioning market. Entergy and Holtec agreed a similar licence transfer transaction for Entergy’s Pilgrim and Palisades plants after they close in 2019 and 2022. Holtec also purchased Exelon’s recently-closed 636 MW Oyster Creek plant.

The Vermont Yankee license transfer will see NorthStar continue to own or hold the physical plant assets, real estate, decommissioning trust fund, spent nuclear fuel and DOE Standard Contract.

However, the Crystal River deal just involves the sale of the dry cask storage assets.

Business model

“The success of NorthStar's business model does not depend on taking ownership of the real estate underlying the retired power plants we decommission,” State said.

“At the conclusion of the Vermont Yankee decommissioning process when the NRC free releases the site, NorthStar may convey ownership for nominal consideration to the local community or support other redevelopment consistent with the wishes of the community.

“Selling the dry cask storage assets allows Duke Energy to transfer all aspects of used fuel management, including operating and maintenance costs, to us. Owning the dry cask storage system assets closely aligns with our industry expertise and business strategy.”

Orano designed and manufactured the Crystal River Nuclear Plant’s on-site NUHOMS dry cask storage system and successfully transferred used nuclear fuel assemblies from the plant’s fuel storage pool to the on-site dry cask storage facility.

This is a major contract win for NorthStar in an increasingly competitive decommissioning sector, with Crystal River being only its second nuclear power decommissioning contract. Although there are significant differences between Vermont Yankee and Crystal River, State sees economies of scale as well as knowledge gains to be had.

“The Vermont Yankee plant demolition is already underway and will be about a year ahead of the Crystal River 3 project,” State said. 

“Even though Crystal River has a pressurized water reactor, unlike Vermont Yankee, which is a boiling water reactor, we anticipate our project teams will be able to share any lessons learned at both sites.”

Nuclear Energy Insider