Repairing a crippled Duke Energy nuclear plant in Florida could cost up to $3.4 billion, nearly three times earlier estimates, says an independent review released Monday.

Duke commissioned the review of the Crystal River plant in March, three months before its merger with Progress Energy closed. Progress had owned the plant, which has been shut down since 2009 after concrete in its reactor containment structure began failing.

Duke s leaders had cited uncertainty over repair costs to the plant among the reasons its board dismissed former Progress chief executive Bill Johnson as CEO of the combined companies.

Progress last year put repair estimates at $900 million to $1.3 billion.

The new review by Zapata Inc., a Charlotte engineering firm, estimated costs at $1.49 billion. But unforeseen problems, including additional damage to the structure, could push costs as high as $3.43 billion and take eight years to resolve.

An initial concrete separation, or delamination, had been repaired in the structure when two more delaminations were found last year.

In a statement, incoming Progress Energy Florida president Alex Glenn said the current repair plan appears to be technically feasible, but significant risks and technical issues still need to be resolved ...

Duke hasn t made a decision whether to repair or retire the plant, he said.

We will proceed with a repair option only if there is a high degree of confidence that the repair can be successfully completed and licensed within the final estimated costs and schedule, and is in the best interests of our customers, joint owners and investors.

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