Progress Energy Florida (PEF) has asked state regulators to approve increasing the output of the utility’s Crystal River nuclear plant, a proposal that is expected to save billions of dollars for customers.

Increasing the plant’s gross output from 900 megawatts (MW) to 1,080 MW will be enough to serve an additional 110,700 homes. Based on approximately 615 homes per MW, the higher-output plant could serve about 664,200 homes. Because nuclear energy is the most cost-effective way to generate electricity, the uprate is expected to save customers more than $2.6 billion in gross fuel costs through 2036.

“This innovative project is another way we are managing the rising costs of fossil fuels used to generate electricity,” said Jeff Lyash, president and CEO of Progress Energy Florida.

If approved by the Florida Public Service Commission, the uprate will take place in two stages: 40 MW will be added after equipment modifications during the 2009 refueling outage, and 140 MW will be added after upgrades to the reactor during the 2011 refueling outage. The project is estimated to cost about $382 million, which includes potential transmission-system improvements and compliance with environmental regulations. The Crystal River uprate project is not related to the company’s plans to possibly add another nuclear plant in Florida.

As previously announced, the company is evaluating sites for additional generation, including a potential nuclear unit, to meet Florida’s growing needs for electricity. PEF’s service area grows by about 30,000 to 40,000 new homes and businesses each year, and the company is planning now to ensure the infrastructure is in place to provide reliable service for future generations.                EC