Repairs at Progress nuke plant could top $3B

Posted October 1, 2012 6:11 p.m. EDT

— Duke Energy Corp. continues to weigh whether to repair or mothball a former Progress Energy nuclear plant in Florida, executives said Monday after releasing a consultant's report on damage to the plant.

Crystal River No. 3 has been out of service since 2009, when a containment building cracked as a turbine was replaced. Since then, Progress tried to devise a repair plan and haggled with its insurer over who would pick up the tab.

Duke, which acquired Progress in July, hired Zapata Inc. for an outside review of the repair plans, and the consultant said repairs could cause further cracking and cause the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to review the plant's entire license.

Zapata also said that repairs would take almost a year longer than Progress' previous estimates and would likely cost more. Under a worst-case scenario, the project could cost $3.43 billion and take eight years to finish, the consultant said, compared with Progress' estimates of $1.94 billion and 25 months.

Duke directors cited Progress' management of the Crystal River situation as one reason they lost confidence in Progress Chief Executive Bill Johnson during the merger process.

Johnson was to be the chief executive of the combined utility, but the board forced him to resign within hours of the deal's completion. He was replaced by Duke Chief Executive Jim Rogers.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission is reviewing the merger to determine if Duke officials lied to the commission during the merger to gain regulatory approval. Under state law, the agency has the power to rescind its approval or extract concessions from Duke.