MIAMI Aug 1 Duke Energy Corp said on
Thursday it will not proceed with a $24 billion nuclear power
project in central Florida because of licensing delays and
doubts about cost recovery, but may use the site for nuclear
power generation in the future.
The announcement was the latest blow to nuclear power
investment in the Sunshine State and reflected the boom in
natural gas development nationwide.
Although it is pulling the plug on plans to build a nuclear
plant in Florida's Levy County, the company said it continues to
regard the Gulf Coast site as a "viable option for future
"We continue to believe that a balanced energy portfolio,
including renewable energy, energy efficiency, and
state-of-the-art cleaner power plants are critical to securing
Florida's energy future," Alex Glenn, president of Duke Energy's
utility operations in the state, said in a statement.
He cited delays in the licensing of new plants by the
Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as well as uncertainties about
cost recovery, as among leading reasons plans to build the plant
had been put on hold.
"Nuclear energy should remain an option to meet Florida's
future energy needs," said Glenn.
Duke Energy Florida provides electricity to approximately
1.7 million customers in Florida.
Duke Energy, the biggest power company in the United States,
announced in February that its Progress Energy Florida utility
would retire the Crystal River nuclear plant on the state's west
The plant had been offline since late 2009 due to damage
done to the reactor's containment structure during a power
upgrade and the replacement of the unit's steam generators.
The Levy project decision was welcomed by critics of nuclear
energy in Florida. "Duke's leadership has taken a fresh look at
these unnecessary nuclear projects and has absolutely made the
right decision for Florida consumers," said Stephen A. Smith,
executive director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
"While important details are still being resolved, Florida
consumers should rejoice in knowing that the fleecing associated
with this nuclear project will end," he added, noting that the
Levy project cost had "skyrocketed."
Duke said it will continue the process to obtain a license
to build the plant, but in the meantime it plans to seek to
construct or acquire natural gas-fired power generation.
"It is encouraging to see Duke recognize the value of
nuclear energy by keeping its options open for this site," said
Jerry Paul, a Florida-based nuclear engineer with the Energy
Information Institute. "Most experts would agree that
zero-emission nuclear energy must play a role in America's and
Florida's future energy supply," he added.
Paul said the Levy decision appeared to be based on a narrow
set of factors related to Duke's Florida territory, including
electricity demand projections and the timeline for available
energy from that plant compared with the delays in the
There are currently 100 reactors licensed to operate in the
United States. The reactors have a total capacity of about
97,843 megawatts (MW) and generate about 20 percent of the
In February Duke said it was evaluating the potential to
build a new gas plant that could come online as early as 2018.
In 2012, before the merger with Duke, Progress said it
delayed the proposed in-service date for the Levy county nuclear
power plant to 2024 with a second unit following 18 months
later. The company also boosted the cost estimate for the
2,200-MW project to between $19 billion and $24 billion