Florida’s Crystal River Nuke Plant Shows Folly of Nuclear Power

by on November 9, 2020 · 11 comments

in Energy, Environment

Nuclear Shutdown News

By Michael Steinberg /  Black Rain Press

Nuclear Shutdown News chronicles the decline and fall of the nuclear power industry in the US and beyond, and highlights the efforts of those who are working to create a nuclear free world.

We’ll use the case of the Crystal River nuke plant in Florida to illustrate the increasing folly of nuclear power.

The US introduced nuclear power to the US public as “too cheap to meter,” with the Atoms For Peace program in the 1950s, after the horrors of atomic weapons the US used to decimate the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was exposed. The federal government employed heavy subsidies and post WWII patriotic zeal to encourage reluctant electric utilities to begin building nuclear plants.

The Crystal River nuke plant began construction in the 1960s and its reactor began generating electricity in the 1970s.   The 890 Megawatt plant near the Gulf of Mexico initially was owned and operated by the Florida Power utility.

Enter Them Duke Boys

In 2000 Carolina Power & Light bought the Crystal River nuke plant. This move was part of the so-called Nuclear Renaissance, promoted by the Bush 2 administration. Headed up by the prez’s hit man, Dickhead Cheney, the idea was to build lots more nuke plants, and to devise devious ways to keep aging nuke plants going. The sale of Cystal River was one of these schemes.

Nuclear power plants were designed to last 40 years.  In the 21st century, some powerful utilities began buying up aging plants at fire sale prices, with the intention of squeezing out profits as long as possible while cutting back on safety measures and maintenance. Subsequent to Crystal River’s sale, Carolina P&L became Progress Energy, then in 2012 it was bought by Duke Energy.

The Duke dynasty began in Durham, NC,  when the family got filthy rich in the 19th century by ruthlessly creating a tobacco monopoly in what became known as Tobacco Road in central North Carolina. Even though the Yankee federal government eventually partially split up its monopoly, the Dukes remained a powerful force, buying up a small women’s college in Durham and endowing it with their wealth to create the prestigious elite Duke University. Workers at the university and Duke Medical Center still refer to it as “The Plantation.”

In 1904 them Duke boys started an electrical utility to power it tobacco factories and that entity grew to dominate electrical production and distribution in the Carolinas many textile mills.

Duke Energy is a direct descendant of this development. The company owns six nuclear plants in the Carolinas, most of them with multiple reactors.  Duke is one of the most powerful utilities in the nation, with money to burn.

Cracking Up

In 1990 Crystal plant owners decided to do some major work on the already 30+ year old nuke. The plan was to replace a major component in the reactor called steam generator. A similar move at the San Onofre nuclear plant in Southern California led to its early demise in 2012. Another aspect of the plan was to do a “power uprate,” resulting in the reactor generating higher rates of electricity than it was designed to do. This in turn would create more overall stress on the aging facility.

But there must have been some ghosts in the machines. More likely was that plant owners did not devote the necessary safety measures and financial resources to do the job right. Early on in the work a crack appeared in the reactor containment building, which holds the reactor’s radiation in. If it gets out its Meltdown City, and things going Bang in the Night Big Time. Efforts to fix the crack only caused more.

When it became apparent that cost a large fortune to deal with this fiasco, the plant was “declared economically beyond repair,” and Duke Energy permanently shut it down. The company charged its customers for the cost of this debacle.

Gregory Jacko, former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, commented , “That’s a multibillion -dollar asset that had to be shut down because of improper work planning and improper understanding of how to do a containment reset.”

Undeterred, Duke went on with another reckless plan. This was to build two new reactors not far from the wasted Crystal River plant. Starting in 2006 the utility began spending more multi-millions on the project. The NRC even gave it the go ahead. But after a decade Duke gave up the ghost on this project too. Once again, it passed on much of its mismanaged costs to customers.

Meanwhile the Crystal River nuke sat there uselessly. Duke said it would get around to doing something about it in maybe 60 years.

Now Duke is up to it again. On October 10 the Orlando (FL) Sentinel reported that it has hired a largely untested outfit that says it can get the job of demolishing the plant and dealing its long lethal radioactive waste in just 7 years. Hey, it’s a lucky number.

Sources: Wikipedia,wikipedia.com;Orlando Sentinel, orlandosentinel.com.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar Derrick November 12, 2020 at 4:18 pm

As someone who lived in San Diego for many years, and now lives in Crystal River, I find your article deeply flawed. The power upgrade that cracked the containment building did not occur in 1990. It happened in October of 2009 while performing a steam generator upgrade. Nothing has been reported on whether it was a “power uprate” or not. The upgrade was routine in nature. It was also not done by Duke or owned by duke at the time. It was owned by Progress Energy at the time. Progress Energy did not become affiliated with Duke until 2012. Progress Energy and Duke merged in 2012. Progress Energy was not a well managed company. Duke Energy is known to be well managed. If you look into the company that is dismantling the plant over the next 7 years, Accelerated Decommissioning Partners, two companies (NorthStar Group services and Orano USA) and formed this separate company. Northstar Group Services is the largest demolition company in the world and owns and operates one of the most technically advanced demolition fleets of equipment in the U.S. Orano USA is a nuclear supplier of materials and services with in-house capabilities and experience in used nuclear fuel management and dismantling, packaging and transporting radioactive materials(cited from dukes press release). So how would this marriage of experience be “largely untested”?? Duke trying to build a plant in 2006 close to the Crystal river plant is also false, outright wrong. I am beginning to think you didn’t do any research before spewing these words out. Progress Energy abandoned plans to build a nuclear power plant in Levy County right next door to us here in Crystal River (Citrus County). Again, Duke didn’t acquire or “merge” Progress Energy with them until 2012, July 3rd to be exact! So Duke energy inherited the plans to build this plant nearby the Crystal River 3 plant. With money already invested, why would you cancel? it takes a ton of time to get the proper planning and approvals. Not one shovel was put in the ground for this plant. It was all planning. If you go to the U.S. NRC website and search for the Levy Nuclear Plant, Unit 1, you will see that the license was finally issued on 10/26/2016 and cancelled on 04/26/2018. So you can actually see how long this takes. I just happened to stumble upon this article and all I can say is wow! What in the world are you pushing here? Anti Nuclear power? Anti Duke? I’m amazed, but hey! Whatever fits your narrative!

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Avatar Geoff Page November 13, 2020 at 1:09 pm

I have to wonder how someone who lives in Crystal River, Florida just “happened to stumble upon” an article in the OB Rag 3,000 miles away. And, the response is very defensive of the the nuclear industry. Something else is going on here.

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Peter Peter from South O November 13, 2020 at 4:04 pm

Well, Geoff . . . believe it or not, when I search using google for “Crystal River nuclear plant” and select news, the ‘Rag article is right there at the top of the pile.
I used to wonder how the Klingons found our little group, but no longer. Heck, some of the outside articles with controversial authors seem to bring their own local trolls along for the visit.

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Avatar Geoff Page November 13, 2020 at 4:31 pm

Peter, I can see how that would happen. But, why would someone who lives in Crystal River be Googling about their own power plant?

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Avatar Derrick November 13, 2020 at 5:01 pm

Hi Geoff,

I was actually googling about Tropical Storm Eta in Crystal River, FL since it went right over me. I typed in Crystal River on google and clicked “news” and this article popped up, the 5th article down to be exact. Believe it or not, I still work for my company in San Diego to this day so also the OB Rag is nothing new to me, this is just the first time I have commented. There is nothing else going on here. I just read this article, and saw all the crap that is being spewed. So I get defensive when I see an article with such blatant disregard for the truth. So when I can have a voice and voice my opinion, I will. Especially in today’s society. Also, why would someone NOT google about their own NUCLEAR power plant in their town? Crystal River, FL is a small town in Florida. We are the “Nature Coast” where people come to swim with manatee’s, go scalloping, and some of the best fishing around. We don’t have our own news station so any news we want to know, basically comes from the internet. I work from home and I have nothing but time at my computer every day so you google things in your off time.

The real question is, why would someone 3,000 miles away write about this little town and its nuclear power plant when there are so many more? It could have written about the San Onofre debacle and how the electric companies are screwing you guys over daily by raising your rates. I remember my electric bills when I lived there (moved out in 2015) and they weren’t pretty.

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Avatar Geoff Page November 13, 2020 at 6:41 pm

Well ok, I guess I’m just the skeptical type.

You said you were googling about Tropical Storm Eta that went right over you but instead of typing in Tropical Storm Eta, you typed in Crystal River? You also said you don’t have any news station in Crystal River so the only news you get is through the internet. I live in a place with all kinds of news outlets but what I look at are sites I’ve saved to my favorites so I only need to pick one I want to check out. Much easier than googling San Diego every time.

This was not written by someone 3,000 miles away, the author lives in Connecticut.

And finally, try googling the OB Rag or the Free Press with “San Onofre” and you’ll get an answer to your last question.

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Peter Peter from South O November 13, 2020 at 6:48 pm

Did WCJB lose its license?

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Peter Peter from South O November 12, 2020 at 9:08 pm

I have a few issues with this item. I call it an item, because it certainly is not a report by a reporter, but an opinion piece by a fiction author with no apparent background in anything but the social side of the issue. Do a simple web search for Black Rain Press (and you are gonna have to put it in quotes because of the limited info out there).
Derrick expounded on the factual errors (a DECADE off in placing the event?) but all I had to see were the sources quoted. Any real journalist would rather crawl across broken glass than quote Wikipedia as their ‘source’. Wikipedia has a whole page cautioning people NOT to use Wikipedia as a source and the multitude of reasons why. The other is the Orlando Sentinel, a very respectable media outlet. So we have an author of fiction, with a smattering of activist experience, regurgitating a story or stories from another media outlet.
Sorry. On the credibility scale, this one is a big zero.

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Avatar Derrick November 13, 2020 at 7:30 pm

Peter,
No it did not but it is a Gainesville station. There are news stations all around us but none really report specifically on Crystal River itself much unless its a big deal.

Geoff,
Of course I added Tropical Storm Eta. My Googling habits aren’t in question here. This piece is. lol. If you are wondering if I work for Duke, I can promise you that I do not. I am an Operations Manager for a plumbing company. If I worked for Duke, I probably would not have had to move my family back to FL due to the rising living expenses in southern CA. And i’m sure OB rag has plenty on here about San Onofre. My last question was why did he report on Crystal River instead of so many more? San Onofre was just an example.

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Avatar Jennifer November 23, 2020 at 7:21 pm

Thank you for the info Derrick! I too stumbled upon this article after googling the power plant in my area (yes, it happens). I was hesitant to read the article for obvious reasons but I’m glad that I did as the info posted by Derrick was informative and the back and forth was also pretty funny.

Thanks,
Jen

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Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie November 23, 2020 at 9:42 pm

Nuclear Shutdown News chronicles the decline and fall of the nuclear power industry in the US and beyond, and highlights the efforts of those who are working to create a nuclear free world. Did you, Derrick, read the intro?

Besides the wrong date, what else is factually incorrect? Steinberg has been a long-time critic of the nuclear power industry, wrote a book on it, so it’s difficult to see some of the harsh criticism coming his way; he has been writing this monthly column for years, so forgive him for his take on all of this. But again, exactly what? BTW, wikipedia can lead to original and invaluable sources, so let’s not just trash all of it.

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