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Palisades Nuclear Plant owner hopes to make official decision on reopening this summer

The owners of Palisades Nuclear Power Plant are hoping to decide this summer if the plant will be reopened.

Representatives of Holtec Decommissioning International, which took ownership of the plant shortly after it shut down last May, met with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Monday, March 20, to discuss the “regulatory path” for reopening Palisades.

During the meeting, which included a public comment period and a closed session to discuss proprietary information, Holtec laid out an ideal timeline for a decision and other steps necessary to restart Palisades.

Holtec applied for a loan from the U.S. Department of Energy last month. The loan’s approval is a key component in reopening the plant.

The regulatory path to reopening, from Holtec’s perspective, would mean undoing the measures taken to approve the plant for decommissioning. Jean Fleming, the company’s vice president of licensing, regulatory affairs and PSA, said Holtec believes everything can be done within the current regulatory framework of the NRC.

Certifications for permanent cessation of operations and permanent fuel removal would have to be withdrawn and the plant’s operating license, which was initially good through March 2031, would need to be reinstated.

In addition to the loan and regulatory measures, Holtec would need legislative action at the state level and to secure a power purchasing agreement.

“A lot of agencies (have) got to decide that this is important,” said Holtec President Kelly Trice. “We want to restart this plant. We believe it’s important for the state. We simply don’t control all the factors.”

Trice said the hope is to make a decision this summer, depending on the timetable for the DoE loan.

“Our goal is to make this decision in summer, subject to those other steps happening in parallel,” Trice said. “We’ve kind of tentatively

scheduled a conditional DoE loan approval in roughly the June/July timeframe — this is all subject to DOE’s timetable of course — with ideally a loan closing in October.”

Holtec estimates it would take two years to get the plant up and running, including recovering and training staff. During the public comment portion of the meeting, several spoke in favor and against the potential reopening.

Allegan County Board of Commissioners Chair Jim Storey spoke in favor of restarting Palisades. He called Michigan an “energy poor state” and said energy supply is needed to support the state’s investment in the automotive battery industry.

“This is extremely important to the future economic and job welfare of our state,” Storey said.

Palisades Power Plant in Covert, Mich.
Palisades Power Plant in Covert, Mich.

Mike Chappell, a county commissioner in Van Buren County, said Palisades provides reliable, carbon-free energy and high-paying jobs in the community.

Others protested the idea. Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear and Don’t Waste Michigan called the effort to restart Palisades “outlandish” and “off the deep-end nuts.”

“This is outrageous,” he said. “Over my dead body are you all going to get away with this. We are going to fight you at every turn.”

Palisades closed in May 2022 after more than 50 years of operation. The plant closed earlier than planned due to issues with a control rod drive seal.

Holtec already filed an application for funding through the Civil Nuclear Credit Program, supported by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, last year. It was denied in November, but the company hopes its updated application will see different results.

Holtec’s decommissioning work thus far hasn’t involved any dismantling of the plant and any decommissioning work completed so far could be undone.

— Contact reporter Mitchell Boatman at mboatman@hollandsentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @SentinelMitch.

This article originally appeared on The Holland Sentinel: Palisades owner hopes to make official call on reopening this summer

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