Crystal River Still Up in Air

Crystal River, the Progress Energy Nuclear plant, has been out of commission since 2009. The company is fighting with its insurer, National Electric Insurance Limited, or NEIL, over who should pay for a series of cracks in the containment wall caused by the botched replacement of generators. The company told the Public Service Commission no settlement is in sight.

"If we're unable to reach a settlement with NEIL, then the next step would be for more arbitration," said John Burnett.

The settlement is crucial, though, in determining if the company or rate payers will be asked to cover what the insurer does not.

"Have a NEIL number and a repair number and there is a gap," said Charles Rehwinkel.

Progress says it will decide by summer if it will repair the plant. Those repairs now estimated to cost as much as four billion dollars.

Its attorney would not talk with reporters on the process.

No matter what the company decides to repair or close the plant, consumers will lose either way says the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

"Simply put this is a mess for Progress Energy customers," said George Cavros.

In the meantime, the company is spending tens of millions in additional fuel costs that are being passed on to consumers. The costs go beyond Progress customers because utility systems across Florida buy power from Crystal River and they're paying more because the crippled plant is out of commission.

A large settlement with the insurer could also authorize it to assess other nuclear plants across the county, raising utility rates nationwide to cover the cost of repair.