The Crystal River nuclear power plant will be retired, the parent company of Progress Energy said today, affecting about 600 employees and ending months of uncertainly over the facility's future.
The reactor has been offline since late 2009, when its concrete containment building cracked during a maintenance and upgrade project.
Officials with North Carolina-based Duke Energy, which owns Progress Energy, had said fixing the plant could take nearly three years and cost billions of dollars.
Company officials said about 600 full-time employees will remain on-site during the closing. The company said it will help transition "as many as possible" into new positions within Duke Energy.
"We are very sensitive to the impact on our employees at the plant and on the Citrus County economy," said Alex Glenn, Florida president of Progress Energy. "… We are committed to working with Citrus County to lessen the effects as much as possible."
Duke Energy said it also is evaluating a number of potential sites for future growth, including Citrus County. Possibilities include construction of a natural gas-fueled plant that could come online as early as 2018.
The closure means Florida Progress, the state's second-largest power company, could have to refund customers $100 million under a prior settlement between the utility and consumer advocates. That settlement calls for the refund in 2015 and 2016 if repairs had not begun by the end of 2012.
"We believe the decision to retire the nuclear plant is in the best overall interests of our customers, investors, the state of Florida and our company," Jim Rogers, chairman, president and CEO of Duke Energy, said in a release. "This has been an arduous process of modeling, engineering, analysis and evaluation over many months. The decision was very difficult, but it is the right choice."
The plant's federal license was due to expire in three years unless federal regulators approved an extension.
The complex's four coal plants remain in service in Citrus County, although Duke Energy expects to retire the two older plants in the next few years.