April 30, 2012 / 3:45 PM / 7 years ago

Progress Florida Levy reactors closer to license

By Scott DiSavino	
    April 30 (Reuters) - U.S. regulators have signed off on an
environmental review for two new nuclear reactors that Progress
Energy Inc hopes to build at Levy County on Florida's
west coast.	
    The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said in a
release on Friday the NRC staff and the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers completed the final environmental impact statement for
Levy's combined construction and operating licenses (COL).	
    Before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) can
approve of the 2,200-megawatt (MW) project, the NRC said its
staff must complete a safety review and its judicial arm must
decide on a challenge of the staff's environmental review by
environmental groups.	
    Progress Energy, a North Carolina-based power company, has
said the NRC could issue a license for Levy in early 2013.	
    Progress estimated the total cost of the Levy plant at $17
billion to $22 billion, including about $3 billion needed for
transmission infrastructure, with the first unit expected to
enter service in 2021 and the second 18 months later.	
    Progress said it planned to include joint owners in the Levy
project, but has yet to announce any joint owners. Progress in
January 2011 agreed to a $13.7 billion merger with neighboring
North Carolina-based power company Duke Energy.	
    Progress applied with the NRC in July 2008 to build and
operate two Westinghouse Electric AP1000 reactors at Levy.	
    Westinghouse is majority owned by Japanese multinational
Toshiba Corp. The AP1000 is a 1,100-MW
pressurized-water reactor design.	
    The Levy plant is on the west coast of Florida near
Progress' 860-MW Crystal River nuclear power plant.	
    Crystal River has been off line since September 2009 when a
refueling and power up-rate began. During the upgrade, workers
discovered a gap in the concrete containment dome, which was
opened to install new steam generators.	
    Crystal River was originally expected to restart in April
2011 but Progress said last summer the unit would not restart
until 2014. The company has estimated the cost of repairing the
containment structure at between $900 million and $1.3 billion.	
    The AP1000 reactor design planned for Levy is the most
popular design in the United States, claiming 12 of the 20
reactors under development or construction in the country.	
    The NRC certified the AP1000 in December 2011 and there are
four AP1000s under construction in the United States - two at
Southern Co's Vogtle nuclear plant in Georgia and two at
Scana Corp's Summer nuclear plant in South Carolina. 	
    The two reactors at Vogtle will cost Southern and partners
about $14 billion and enter service in 2016 and 2017. The two
reactors at Summer will cost Scana and partners over $9 billion
and enter service in 2017 and 2018.	
    The utilities have said the difference in cost depends on
several factors including whether the reactors are at a
greenfield site like Levy and the cost of transmission lines.	
    Despite the so-called nuclear renaissance, the four new
units at Vogtle and Summer will likely be the only new reactors
built in the United States by 2020.	
    The Tennessee Valley Authority, meanwhile, expects to finish
an older reactor over the next few years at the Watts Bar
nuclear plant in Tennessee that the government-owned power
company started working on in the 1970s, stopped work in the
1980s, and restarted in the 2000s.	
    Several factors have stalled the nuclear renaissance that
observers predicted a decade ago when fossil fuel prices were
high and the U.S. government was expected to cap carbon dioxide
emissions to combat global warming.	
    Low natural gas prices have kept electricity prices low,
making it economically difficult for energy companies to build
anything but natural gas-fired power plants without
state-sponsored programs such as those in Georgia, South
Caroline and Florida, that guarantee nuclear builders will
recover costs.	
    New nuclear construction also slowed after the nuclear
accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan last year.
Other factors include weak growth in power demand and growing
use of energy efficiency and conservation programs.
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