Florida Nuclear Project Is Dropped
By MATTHEW L. WALD
WASHINGTON — Duke Energy said Thursday that it had dropped plans for a $24.7 billion nuclear reactor complex in Levy County, Fla., on which the company has already spent $1 billion, most of it collected from customers.
The company cited “regulatory uncertainty” after a change in Florida’s rules that cast doubt on whether a utility can collect money from customers for construction work before a project is finished. The decision comes at a time of low prices for natural gas, which competes with nuclear power in electricity generation, and generally slack demand for power.
The project was started by Progress Energy in 2008, and was acquired by Duke when it merged with Progress last year. Duke said it would continue pursuing a license to build and operate the plant, but drop the contracts for completing the engineering work, acquiring components and building the reactors. “Duke Energy Florida continues to regard the Levy site as a viable option for future nuclear energy generation, and understands the importance of fuel diversity in creating a sustainable energy future,” the company said in a statement.
By 2018, Duke will probably have to build a plant running on natural gas to meet demand, according to Alex Glenn, the president of Duke Energy in Florida.
The announcement is a setback for the “nuclear renaissance” that the industry predicted a decade ago. Other than the reactors under construction, two each in Georgia and South Carolina, it is not clear how many projects will be started. Similar to the Levy County project is a twin-unit plant that Florida Power & Light is planning at Turkey Point, near Miami. Duke was planning to build two new reactors at its Harris site, in Wake County, N.C., but suspended plans there earlier this year. The company is still seeking a license for a twin-unit plant in Cherokee County, S.C.