Don Taylor, 65, drove down the three mile access road and pulled into the visitor’s left lane at the Access Control Point – the first layer of security before coming onto plant property. A security officer cross-checked his driver’s license, looked for his name on the approved visitor’s list then searched his vehicle.
Taylor had traveled down that same access road thousands of times during the last decade. He knew exactly where to go and where to park. But this time was different. Taylor was coming to the Crystal River Nuclear Plant (CR3) not as a Duke Energy employee but as a participant in a special tour for local leaders.
Twelve elected officials and community leaders from Citrus and Levy counties joined Taylor for the four hour event, which included a presentation on CR3’s decommissioning plan, a walking tour of the plant and an informal question and answer session during lunch.
“The February 2013 decision to decommission CR3 was made after I retired,” said Taylor, who served Duke Energy for 35 years and worked as CR3’s financial manager between 1999 and 2012. “In my new role as Citrus County’s Economic Development Council director, I needed to understand the plant’s status and future plans. I was particularly concerned about job losses and wanted more details on the dry cask storage project.”
After processing through a second layer of security, similar to airport security, to get inside the plant’s perimeter, the group walked up a 30 foot berm, looked down and saw a grassy knoll where the new dry cask storage facility will be built by 2017.
All U.S. nuclear plants store used nuclear fuel at their site – either in fuel pools or dry casks – because the U.S. does not have a central federal repository for used nuclear fuel. CR3 has safely stored its used nuclear fuel in fuel pools since the plant’s first refueling in 1978.
During the tour, the group also saw the damaged concrete on the containment building, water tight doors that protect the plant during storms and equipment, such as turbine rotors, that may be re-sold. They visited the 1970s era, sea foam green colored control room and met operators focused on monitoring the used nuclear fuel, pools and related cooling systems.
“The tour was well organized and provided quality information and straight talk to hard questions,” Taylor said. “The up-close view of the containment building concrete damage was very helpful and put the containment issues in perspective. Visiting the control room and talking directly to operators was also beneficial.”
Will Bryant, an environmental health director for the Florida Department of Health in Citrus County, also enjoyed interacting with plant personnel.
“In my line of work, firsthand experience is priceless,” he said. “Duke’s personnel are top notch, and great care is placed on safety. I was most surprised by the condition of the plant. It’s remarkably clean and well kept.”
After the tour, participants completed a survey. The vast majority said the tour expanded their awareness and understanding of the decommissioning plan. They said plant staff was knowledgeable and answered questions completely and honestly. They also felt the plant would be decommissioned in a safe and cost-effective manner.
- After completing a comprehensive analysis of costs and risks, Duke Energy announced its decision to retire CR3 on Feb. 5, 2013, rather than pursue a first-of-its-kind repair to the plant’s containment building.
- While replacing two 500-ton steam generators during a scheduled maintenance outage in 2009, engineers discovered a separation of concrete within the containment building that surrounds the reactor vessel. Though crews successfully repaired the concrete, they discovered additional damage in two other areas when working to return the unit to service in 2011.
- CR3 operated between 1977 and 2009, producing on average 860 megawatts of generation. The plant is one of five units at the Crystal River Energy Complex located on Florida’s Gulf Coast approximately 85 miles north of Tampa. The other four units are coal-fired.
- Plant status: CR3 is in a safe, stable condition. The plant’s comprehensive emergency plans and full-time, around-the-clock security force remain in place.
- Decommissioning plan: Duke Energy has selected the “SAFSTOR” decommissioning option, one of three options approved by the NRC and one chosen by several other retired U.S. nuclear plants. Under this option, the plant will remain in a safe, stable condition for 60 years until decommissioning work is completed in 2074. CR3 anticipates reaching its SAFSTOR condition by July 1, 2015.
- Status of employees: About 230 employees remain on site as part of the decommissioning organization. Nearly 250 others have redeployed to other positions within Duke Energy. About 125 employees have left the company and were offered severance benefits. Over time, staffing at the site will become smaller.
- Cost estimate: The estimated cost funded from the decommissioning trust is $1.18 billion (in 2013 dollars). With the SAFSTOR option, Duke Energy believes the nuclear decommissioning trust fund, including future growth of the fund and funds from our nine other owners, will be sufficient to decommission the plant without increasing customer rates. However, annual analysis will be required.
- Near-term activities: Workers are preparing the containment building for long-term inactivity, removing systems no longer needed from service, constructing or reconfiguring other systems, continuing work to receive NRC approvals to transition CR3 from an operating plant to a decommissioning one and starting construction of a dry cask storage facility.