Fixing the damaged reinforced-concrete containment building at the long-idled Crystal River-3 nuclear unit in Citrus County, Fla., will cost more than the $1.3 billion originally estimated by Progress Energy Florida and take longer than the utility's original 24- to 30-month estimate. Under a "worst-case scenario," repair costs could skyrocket to more than $3.4 billion and the schedule could balloon to eight years, a consultant to Progress Energy's corporate parent, Duke Energy, said on Sept. 30.

Photo courtesy Progress Energy Florida
A report by Zapata Engineering, commissioned by Duke Energy, states that the cost to repair the idled Crystal River nuclear plant in Florida could range from $1.5 billion, to an estimated $3.4 billion for a "worst-case" scenario.

Charlotte, N.C.-based Zapata Inc., hired by Duke Energy in March to analyze a proposal to rebuild CR-3's containment building walls, said in a regulatory report filed to the Florida Public Service Commission on Oct. 1 that the repair plan selected by Progress Energy is "feasible, but there are risks associated with the technical approach, construction methodology, scheduling and licensing."

Crystal River was taken offline in August 2009 for a planned brief outage to refuel the unit and replace its steam generator. But the following month, work to cut an opening in the unit's containment building caused a delamination, or separation, in the concrete on the circular building's periphery. In March 2011, during the final stages of returning the unit to service, a second crack occurred.

Progress Energy Florida said in June 2011 that it would likely rebuild Crystal River's containment building by 2014, at a cost it then estimated at $1.3 billion. The utility considered 22 repair options, and contracted Bechtel Power and URS Corp. to advance the so-called Option 10, a concept developed by Bechtel.

Under Option 10, all of the reinforced concrete in the upper 90 ft of the six-bay containment building's walls would be replaced, except for the one bay that already has been rebuilt. Also, radial anchors would be installed in the lower part of the walls to prevent future delamination. The containment building's dome would remain in place.

URS figured the project would cost $1.55 billion, including contingency costs, and would take 31 months to complete, which would push the job's completion to late 2015 or early 2016 if work were to start next spring. Zapata said that it believes URS' rebuilding plan would cost $1.49 billion, also including contingency costs, and take 35 months.

Zapata also examined completely replacing the containment building's walls and dome. That project would cost $2.44 billion and take 60 months, the consultant reported. The "worst-case scenario"—rebuilding the walls, finding the repair unsatisfactory and then building new walls and a dome—would cost $3.43 billion and take 96 months to complete.

Peer-Review Process

In May of this year, Progress Energy Florida selected URS "to complete the design and construction planning effort, should the decision be made to repair the facility."

Duke hired Zapata as part of its due diligence in the months prior to closing on its merger with Progress Energy.