Progress Energy, not long ago considered to be in the forefront of the nation's nuclear renaissance, continues delaying its timeline on nuclear energy development. Some projects are nearly a decade behind schedule, prompting nuclear critics say that despite hundreds of millions of dollars of up-front investment these power plants are not likely to get built.
The Raleigh-based electric utility said today it will delay building its planned Levy nuclear plant in Florida by another three years. The announcement sets back the twin reactor project to a 2024-26 time frame from the original planned dates of 2016 and 2018 for the reactors to come online and start generating electricity.
Progress expects to spend nearly $1 billion on the Florida nuclear project by the end of this year, passing on the investment to Florida customers in their monthly bills.
Delays have also stymied the company's nuclear ambitions in North Carolina. Progress had originally planned to add two reactors at the Shearon Harris nuclear plant in Wake County by 2020-21. But now those proposed reactors are not in the company's 15-year plan, which means they would not be added until 2027 at the earliest, and possibly much later.
Progress is delaying nuclear development as customer electricity demand lags projections during a sluggish economy. Historically low natural gas prices are another factor that has shifted the company's focus to building power plants that run on natural gas rather than uranium.
Progress also updated its cost estimate for the planned Florida reactors from a range of $17 billion to $22 billion. The new estimate is $19 billion to $24 billion, giving an indication of the colossal scope of such a project. The estimates don't include the cost of debt interest, which would likely add hundreds of millions of dollars to the price tag.
Progress will have spent $935 million on the Levy plant by the end of 2012 on land acquisition, license application, engineering analyses, environmental studies and other related costs.