Clarity soon on Crystal River

28 June 2011

Progress Energy intends to embark on billion-dollar repairs to Crystal River's containment with a view to employing the reactor until around 2036. 


Crystal River (Progress)
Crystal River (Image: Progress Energy)

The pressurized water reactor has been offline since late 2009, when a refuelling and 20% uprate outage began. A hole was made in the plant's reinforced steel containment structure for the replacement of its steam generators, but engineers noticed this had caused part of the concrete to delaminate. This was repaired, and the concrete re-tensioned, but the same problem was found in at least one other place with still more areas requiring attention.


The containment stands as a major element of the plant's nuclear safety provision and is over one metre thick, laced with horizontal and vertical steel tendons and lined with steel about one centimetre thick. The delamination was occurring over 20 centimetres into the concrete.


Some 22 potential repair options were evaluated by Progress and a range of outside experts before it settled on what it thought best: to systematically remove and replace concrete in the affected parts of containment structure walls. This will not include the areas where steam generator holes have already been rebuilt, but the costs will nevertheless run to $900-$1300 million.


This enormous cost, however, is outweighed by the economic value of the paid-for plant's generation capability. Progress said the use of nuclear power, and uranium as a fuel, saved its customers over $300 million per year compared to the cost of other fuels.


Crystal River 3 began operation in 1977 and is currently licensed to operate until 2016. Progress is liaising with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to satisfy it of the safety of continuing operation until perhaps 2036. The company serves 1.6 million customers in Florida, in a power market regulated by the state's Public Service Commission. In mid-July Progress will engage in talks with that body over how to proceed.


Progress said it had spent about $214 million on repairs to Crystal River and $314 million on replacement power as of 31 May this year. Its insurance provider, Nuclear Electric Insurance Limited, has paid claims of $265 million in the same period. Progress noted that it is insured for up to $2.25 billion for property damage and $490 million for replacement power.


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News