Duke Energy has made some big moves these past few days, including shutting down two coal-fired power plants in North Carolina.
After years of failed repair attempts to repair a broken nuclear reactor in Florida and years more of stalling, Duke Energy has finally accepted the inevitable, and decided to retire the Crystal River nuclear plant.
Floridians like me can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that they no longer face the potential threat of an unsafe, damaged nuclear reactor being allowed to limp along indefinitely.
This closure hits close to home for me. I grew up in Florida, just south of the damaged reactor. My electric bill went up to pay for this plant and the possible construction of others. I’ve watched the controversy around Crystal River explode in recent months from afar, while fighting Duke Energy’s dirty power plants in Ohio.
A little about today’s news.
The Crystal River nuclear plant, located 80 miles north of Tampa, has been inactive since 2009, when its owner at the time, Progress Energy, began to upgrade the 36-year-old nuclear plant and discovered that the reactor’s containment dome, the last line of defense against the release of radiation, was badly cracked and in need of repair. Repair costs were estimated at $3.4 billion, and that bill was to be footed by ratepayers like me and my family. Progress, which merged with Duke last year, has spent millions of dollars of ratepayers’ money in an attempt to fix the plant — no such luck. They failed, and repair efforts damaged the plant even more.
Unfortunately customers’ pocket books are not off the hook for the mess that is Crystal River. Ratepayers will have to pay $1.3 billion for the upgrade that broke the plant. All in all, it is looking like ratepayers will be out $2 billion for the plant.
The whole sordid story proves the simple facts that we all should know by now: Nuclear energy is dangerous, and nuclear energy is so expensive that there’s no way for a company like Duke to build a power plant unless it fleeces regular ratepayers like you and me to pay for it.
Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers said that the decision to retire Crystal River was in the best interest of the customers, investors, state of Florida, and the company.
If that’s true, then why are Rogers and Duke simultaneously pursuing an agenda that includes the construction of another nuclear power plant in Levy County, Florida?
If that’s true, then why are Rogers and Duke trying to pass a law in North Carolina that would put North Carolina ratepayers on the hook for even more nuclear power plants there, despite the warnings of Florida’s politicians, who know how badly this can go.
Duke seems to have finally given up a lost cause in Crystal River, but as the nation’s largest utility, it should be leading the way forward to a clean and renewable energy future, not trying to fool customers into more dumb nuclear investments destined to repeat Crystal River’s fate.