SOUTH HAVEN — Just months after it was shut down — after months of attempts to keep it open — a plan to reopen the Palisades Nuclear Facility in South Haven was announced Friday.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer sent a letter to the US Department of Energy on Friday, Sept. 9, supporting Holtec International’s application for a grant that would reopen the plant. New Jersey-based Holtec International purchased the plant from Entergy in June.
The company has applied for a federal grant under the Civil Nuclear Credit (CNC) program to restore operations at the plant. The state says reopening the plant will “protect 600 high-paying jobs,” as well as 1,100 additional jobs throughout the community. It is also intended to shore up clean energy production in Michigan.
Holtec submitted its application to the CNC on July 5, which was the deadline for applications. If Holtec is approved a CNC, the state “ready to them by identifying state funding and easy for a power purchase agreement.”
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“Keeping Palisades open will keep energy costs low, shore up domestic energy production, and increase Michigan’s competitiveness for future economic development,” Whitmer stated. “I am proud to write in support today of Holtec International’s application for a Civil Nuclear Credit that — if granted — will empower us to keep fighting for economic opportunity for Southwest Michigan and protect 1,700 local jobs.
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“The Palisades Nuclear Facility meets the criteria for this program and keeping it open will help us produce enough clean, reliable energy in Michigan to power hundreds of thousands of homes and small businesses. While we await the final decision from the Department of Energy, we will continue efforts at the state level to create and protect good-paying jobs, compete for more economic development opportunities, and boost domestic energy production.”
Holtec President and CEO Kris Singh said Whitmer has been “instrumental” in supporting the company’s efforts.
“We look forward to continuing to work with the administration as well as our federal, state and community partners to make this hope a reality,” he stated.
The 800-megawatt power plant ceased operations May 20 after 50 years of operation. Whitmer previously wrote to the Department of Energy urging support for Palisades in April, weeks ahead of the planned shutdown. Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm is the secretary of the Department of Energy.
It had originally been scheduled to shut down May 31, but a company media release said operators “made the conservative decision to shut down the plant early due to the performance of a control rod drive seal.”
In a normal operating cycle, the seal is “easily replaceable” during a fuel outage when the reactor is offline, plant spokesperson Val Gent said, but Entergy decided “after careful consideration” to shut down early and not return to operations because they were so close to the final shutdown date.
The CNC program was established to “avoid premature retirements of reactors across the country due to financial hardship, preserve thousands of good-paying clean energy jobs to sustain local economies and protect our supply of carbon-free electricity generation.”
More:Palisades Nuclear Plant shut down last week despite Gov. Whitmer asking for more time
When the closure was announced in May, Holtec said it would spend the next three years removing the spent fuel into dry cask storage inland from Lake Michigan. In July, Holtec proposed a plan to move radioactive materials off-site during the dismantling of the Palisades plant by road, rail — and perhaps most controversially — by barge shipments on Lake Michigan.
It was not clear at the time of publication if that process had started.
It’s also unclear how many former Palisades employees are still available to work at the plant. When the closure was announced, Holtec said Palisades employees would begin transferring to other Entergy sites as soon as June, transferring to work for Holtec or leave the company. The last day for employees who were not staying on to work for Holtec was June 23.
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Entergy said about 130 employees accepted new jobs within Entergy at other locations, about 260 employees were hired to stay at Palisades and work for Holtec to decommission the plant and about 180 employees will either withdraw or separate from Entergy.
The sale also included the former Big Rock Point nuclear plant near Charlevoix, which decommissioned in the early 2000s and whose site on Lake Michigan now includes only large concrete-and-steel casks holding the plant’s radioactive used fuel. It is not yet known if that facility is affected by the plans announced Friday.
— Contact reporter Mitchell Boatman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SentinelMitch.