On Sunday, Oct. 9, The St. Petersburg Times published an incredible and nearly unbelievable story by Ivan Penn about the causes behind the cracking at Progress Energy's Crystal River Nuclear Plant 3 in Citrus Co., Fla. By "unbelievable," I'm not referring to the story's credibility, but the unfortunate chain of circumstances that the Times lays out.

As ENR Southeast has previously reported, Progress Energy Florida's Crystal River Nuclear Plant 3 had suffered cracking while contractors were undertaking a planned refueling and replacement of its steam generators. To do this, the project team opted to cut a hole in the side of the containment building -- something that had been done elsewhere. However, all of these projects had been performed by one of two contractors, according to the article. (The article is available on ENR Southeast via our newswire feed.)

In a nutshell, the Times' story reports and/or asserts the following: To save about $15 million off of an $81-million estimated price tag, Progress Energy opted to forego hiring either one of the two contractors with this type of experience and manage the construction itself. The utility then hired an engineering firm that it would later admit did not have experience designing this exact type of project. Mistakes were made -- such as the work being performed differently from all of those previous similar projects. Upshot: Progress Energy is now looking at the potential for $2.5 billion in repairs. (Note: This $2.5 billion figure differs from previously announced estimates. In June, Progress Energy reported that it estimated the "additional repairs" necessary to fix the plant at between $900 million and $1.3 billion.)

ENR is looking into the situation further, and should have its own report soon. In the meantime, I encourage readers to check out the story. Contractors and engineers should find it very interesting reading. Once you've done so, let us hear your thoughts.

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