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The Nuclear Reactor on Crystal River


Crystal River 3

No one wants drilling rigs to topple into the ocean. Or coal mines to leak toxic and/or explosive gases into tunnels. Or windmills to wipe out populations of bats. There are risks to virtually any human endeavor, of course, and there are benefits to balance against them, but the goal is always to minimize risk and maximize benefits. If the risk can be close to zero and the benefits considerable, that’s of course ideal if difficult to achieve.

I know all of this is obvious, but it’s nice occasionally to see it reaffirmed publically.
“The review found that the current repair plan appears to be technically feasible,” said Alex Glenn, incoming president of Progress Energy Florida, a subsidiary of Duke Energy, “but significant risks and technical issues still need to be resolved, including the ultimate scope of any repair work.
Glenn is talking about a crack in a containment dome at Progress Energy’s Crystal River 3 facility in Florida. Progress (which is now part of Duke Energy) wanted to figure out how much it would cost to fix the problem and hired an outside company, Zapata Consulting, to review the situation.
The cost? A fair amount.
The Zapata report estimated the repair cost at approximately $1.49 billion. Progress Energy's prior assessment indicated expected repair cost of $900 million to $1.3 billion, with the costs trending up.”
And if Zapata is correct, trending up is what those costs are doing. As with many reports, Zapata offered scenarios to estimate how much the process would cost if it went extremely well and if it went very badly.
Under the worst-case scenario, Zapata estimated that the cost could be $3.43 billion with a 96-month schedule.
That’s a lot of money and we would be naïve to think that Progress Energy will not consider its options. Crystal River 3 has been operating since 1977 and has paid its way.
“We have not made a final decision on whether to repair or retire CR3,” Glenn said in a statement on Monday. “The decision and schedule will be driven by the final analysis. We will carefully analyze and settle each finding as we continue to evaluate the technical and licensing implications, estimated costs and the time required to make the repair. We will proceed with a repair option only if there is a high degree of confidence that the repair can be successfully completed and licensed within the final estimated costs and schedule.”
The shuttering of any nuclear energy facility means the loss of a lot of carbon emission free baseload electricity generation – 860 megawatts in this case, with an uprate pending if it returns to service. And it may yet return to service – Progress Energy will figure out what’s best for its customers.

But if Progress Energy decides to retire the reactor, that’s that. No company runs unsafe nuclear reactors; and no company can afford to lose money. There’s just no upside.


SteveK9 said…
Still one of the more embarrassing corporate blunders ever. Trying to save money on a $20M job, ends up costing billions.
jim said…
Nuclear shut-down addicts ought remember that the reactor and generating systems are A-Okay. It's the shell that covers the works giving the headaches. Over a billion to "repair" a concrete shell?? What the heck are they building, a skyscraper? They need to throw open some worldwide construction bids on that job! Maybe even knock it down to 50 mill!

James Greenidge
Queens NY
mark said…
You want to rebuild a existing containment building on a budget? Cost cutting is to blame for this whole incident in the first place. The original containment was built sub par with too little steel reenforcing and the SG replacement was tried on budget and look what the result of that was. Second point you are trying to rebuild the containment over an existing reactor, its going to cost. Try demoing your house around your living room and rebuilding it in sections and see what the cost is
jim said…
Hey, like I said, throw out some bids and let's see! I'm all for cost competition!

James Greenidge
Queens NY
Anonymous said…
Steve K9, you are correct.
And certainly, PGN proved no better at corporate mergers than they are at SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis. They put themselves through the wringer rather consistently.

Now its a Duke issue.
Hopefully a different talent base.
Anonymous said…
Mr. Greenridge, did you ever stop to think that there aren't enough nuclear-qualified vendors available to make competitive bidding possible? Particularly since the Vogtle and Summer projects have already tied up a lot of that nuclear-grade expertise?
jim said…
Why not just find out what's out there? Open bids wide & far and see!

James Greenidge
Queens NY
Anonymous said…
I, for one, am very glad Mr. Greenidge (sorry for the earlier misspelling) and his devil-may-care attitude have exactly zero say in operating anything more complex than a computer keyboard.
Anonymous said…
How is it "devil-may-care"? Sounds like he is just proposing a business-like approach. If there are legitimate and capable businesses out there who are willing to take a look at the problem and propose a plan, let them give it a try. No one is suggesting that the owners must accept unqualified bids, and certainly the regulators will not abdicate their responsibility for overseeing appropriate safety-related issues. That sounds a lot more reasonable to me than running amok and waving our arms in the air about how the sky is falling.
mark said…
Thats fine put out bids I have no problem with that but here are my questions. Who are you going to get to submit bids? There are only a few companies that are qualified to do this or even have the engineering expertise to attack this issue. Two if you were an insurence company and were asked to insure a job that had never been attempted before which had the ability to render one of the most expensive complicated systems ever created inoperable, what would you charge as a premium? My point being that your statement of 50 million might not even be enough to insure the project. While we're at it lets list off other aspects that will cost more than you initial 50 million estimate. The demo of the existing containment will certainly cost more than that. the rebar and concrete to rebuild the new one will cost more than that. Hell you can't buy the fuel to refuel the reactor at Crystal River for just one outage for 50million
Anonymous said…
A competent contractor will consider all relevant points (probably including some of the ones you raise) and fold them into the overall quote. The buyer will have to insure that they have competent people reviewing the bids. Since it is safety-related any proposed repair plan will have to pass muster with appropriate regulatory authorities. As to the type and terms of the contract, those will have to be negotiated, whether it is fixed cost, T&M, or cost plus. Typically a major job requires some kind of surety bond, which again the parties involved in the transaction will have to agree to. IOW, while it might be a complex or first-of-a-kind job, it's not like those haven't been handled before by business entities. And most of all, those are not reasons to run amok and spread FUD far and wide.
jim said…
Re: October 7, 2012 3:48 PM
mark said...

While we're at it lets list off other aspects that will cost more than you initial 50 million estimate. The demo of the existing containment will certainly cost more than that. the rebar and concrete to rebuild the new one will cost more than that. Hell you can't buy the fuel to refuel the reactor at Crystal River for just one outage for 50million"

Yea, well finding out what's out there's half the fun! Wonder how much it costs for China and India and Russia to build their containment structures. Yes, I don't discriminate who does the contract, so long it's done right for the right (lowest) price! Competition rules for me!

James Greenidge
Queens New York

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