Costs for Progress Energy’s two news reactors proposed for Levy County have surged to between $19 and $24 billion, and the first unit could come online almost three years after initially planned, the company said in a statement on Monday. The North Carolina–based company had previously said the first unit at Levy would enter service in 2021 at an estimated cost of $17 billion to $22 billion. 

The company pegged the cost increases and delays to slackened customer demand, the economic slowdown, lower natural gas prices, and uncertainty about potential carbon regulation.

“The revised schedule is consistent with the approach the utility publicly discussed after announcing the recent rate settlement agreement. Although the scope and overnight cost for the Levy County nuclear project—including land acquisition, related transmission work and other required investments—remain essentially unchanged, the shift in schedule will increase escalation and carrying costs and raise the total estimated project cost to between $19 and $24 billion,” the company said.

In a major milestone for the proposed project, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last week completed the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Levy County Units 1 and 2 combined operation and construction licenses (COLs). The agencies concluded that there are "no environmental impacts that would preclude issuing the COLs for construction and operation of the proposed reactors at the site, near Crystal River, Fla." Progress Energy submitted a COL application in July 2008, seeking permission to build and operate two AP1000 nuclear reactors at the site.

In its annual nuclear cost-recovery clause projections (NCRC) filing with the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) for the 2013 billing cycle, the company requested a 2013 NCRC charge of $5.09 on a 1,000-kWh residential bill—a substantial hike, compared to $2.86 in 2012. 

The utility also asked the commission to adjust the Crystal River Nuclear Plant upgrade-related portion of the NCRC charge to $1.64 on a 1,000-kWh residential bill in 2013 (compared to $0.19 in 2012).

Progress Energy’s Crystal River Nuclear Plant in Citrus County, Fla., has been shut down since the fall of 2009 and is expected to remain off-line until at least 2014 after the company discovered three instances of delamination, following tendon retensioning work. “The company and outside experts are conducting a thorough and systematic engineering analysis and review and are assessing options to repair the containment building and return the plant to service in 2014,” it said.

Sources: POWERnews, Progress Energy