PSC OKs Duke’s spending plan

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Money for CR3 dismantling paid by customers in past

By Pat Faherty 

Special to the Citizen

The Florida Public Service Commission has agreed with Duke Energy on how the utility will spend its decommissioning trust funds for the Crystal River area nuclear plant, known as CR3.

The money, an estimated $600 million, was collected from customers in the past. The fund was required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to cover the decommissioning process.

Duke wanted the PSC to reaffirm previous orders and approved its use of the funds to cover costs that fall under license termination, spent fuel management and site restoration.

That differs from the NRC system of having the full fund available for license termination.

Duke also wanted a declaration from the PSC affirming its position. PSC staff and the Office of Public Counsel supported Duke’s request without the declaration.

At the PSC conference meeting Wednesday, Commissioner Eduardo Balbis asked whether Duke’s retiring CR3 early to access the funds ahead of time would save customers money or cost more.

Duke attorney Dianne Triplett said it was too early to tell as they did not have a specific cost estimate yet but expected it by the end of the year.

Commissioner Lisa Polak Edgar supported Duke’s position as a protection to ratepayers for funds already paid. The request passed unanimously without the declaration.

Duke spokesperson Sterling Ivey said the trust was adequately funded in the past so customers are not currently paying anything for decommissioning.

He said Duke is working on an updated decommissioning study.

If Duke determines additional money is necessary to adequately fund the decommissioning trust, the 2013 settlement agreement that is pending approval by the PSC contains provisions to recover those costs from customers.

Per the terms of the settlement, Duke is allowed to petition the commission for recovery of additional decommissioning funds through a base rate surcharge.

The amount that can be recovered through the base rate surcharge through December 2018 is capped at $8 million annually.

Contact Chronicle reporter Pat Faherty at 352-564-2924 or pfaherty@chronicleonline.com.