Palisades Nuclear Plant application for federal funding rejected

Decommissioning work at Michigan’s Palisades Nuclear Plant is continuing after a company that often focused on decommissioning nuclear plants squandered a long-standing effort to keep it open. The factory was already shut down in May.

The company, Holtec International, bought the installation earlier this year to decommission it.

But it requested funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, with state support, to restart operations.

Patrick O’Brien is Director of Government Affairs and Communications at Holtec. He said there were multiple obstacles to the effort.

“We had said publicly that some of the hurdles, under our purchase agreement, were finding an outside operator, obviously the financing piece. But yes, you know the workforce — bringing in the skilled and trained workforce we would have needed. So there are a number of challenges that DOE probably took into account,” O’Brien said.

Restarting a nuclear power plant after it has been definitively closed and the operating license has been surrendered has never been done before.

But Michigan officials had been hoping for months that Palisades would stay in business. Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s administration pointed to the plant as part of the state’s carbon-free energy future.

Whitmer used the words “top priority” in a letter to DOE leadership to describe her commitment to keep things moving.

Applying for the new civilian-nuclear credit program enabled by the federal Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act seemed like another hope.

“This would be unprecedented to be able to reverse a plant closure, but this is also unprecedented funding that came out, so it seemed like it was worth a try,” said Michigan Public Service Commissioner Katherine Peretick.

She said that despite the setback, Michigan is still in a “good spot” when it comes to energy capacity. Peretick said the state’s long-term plans were responsible for the closure of Palisades.

A law signed last month requires the state to investigate the feasibility of expanding nuclear power. That includes the potential for using new technology, such as small modular reactors (SMRs).

O’Brien said Holtec, which offers SMRs, is committed to working with the state on its nuclear future.

“The timeline for Palisades decommissioning is a 19-year timeline, so there is some time to work through everything legally and really decide on the best long-term use of the property once we clean up that site,” said O’Brien.

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