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NEW YORK/HOUSTON (Reuters) - A decision by Duke Energy Corp to retire rather than repair its damaged Crystal River reactor in Florida may signal the shutdown of other older U.S. nuclear plants as weak natural gas prices make significant investment in them uneconomical.

While energy analysts said the circumstances surrounding Duke's decision were unique to that plant, decade-low electric prices, especially in deregulated states where the market sets power rates, make it difficult to support costly upgrades on reactors when building gas-fired units is much cheaper.

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