220913-HP-holtec-palisades-file-photo.jpg

Holtec International is applying for a federal grant with the hope of reopening the recently decommissioned Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in Covert Township.

COVERT — Palisades Nuclear Power Plant’s new owner has taken the first steps to resume plant operations using U.S. Department of Energy funds, but several roadblocks remain in the way.

Holtec International has applied for a federal grant under the Department of Energy’s Civil Nuclear Credit program to continue operation of Palisades in Covert Township, which went offline at the end of May following the sale of the plant from Entergy Corp.

Prior to closing, Palisades employed about 600 workers and affected an additional 1,100 jobs throughout Southwest Michigan, according to the news release issued from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office – which is stepping up its efforts to keep the plant open.

When the plant was shut down at the end of May, Holtec was still retaining about half of its workforce for the decommissioning process. Other workers at the plant were offered the option of relocating to other Entergy plants throughout the country, including ones in Louisiana and Arkansas,. Other workers chose retirement options or to seek employment elsewhere.

“As we have said both publicly before we acquired, and since we took ownership of the Palisades plant, we remain committed to helping the nuclear and energy industries meet challenges and find solutions,” said Patrick O’Brien, senior manager of Government Affairs and Communication for Holtec, in an interview. “While our expertise in decommissioning was the main driver to acquiring the plant, we remain committed to assisting the state of Michigan and the country at large to maintain clean, carbon-free energy production sources to meet the country’s energy needs.”

Whitmer, who has been in support of keeping the plant open for the past year, sent a letter this past week to the U.S. Department of Energy in support of Holtec’s application.

“Keeping Palisades open will keep energy costs low, shore up domestic energy production, and increase Michigan’s competitiveness for future economic development,” Whitmer said in a news release. “I am proud to write in support 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. 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.”

Kris Singh, president and CEO of Holtec International, was pleased to hear of Whitmer’s decision to back the company’s grant application.

“We applaud Gov. Whitmer for her leadership in recognizing the vital importance of Palisades to Michigan’s clean energy future as a source of safe and reliable carbon-free electricity,” Singh said in a news release. “The governor and her team have been instrumental in supporting this historic opportunity for Southwest Michigan and the country. 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.”

Although Holtec has the backing of the governor’s office, it still has to overcome a number of obstacles in order to resume operation of the plant, O’Brien said.

“... There are a number of hurdles to restarting the facility that would need to be bridged, but we will work with the state, federal government, and a yet-to-be identified third-party operator to see if this is a viable option,” O’Brien said. “Challenges that would need to be resolved include financial commitment from the state of Michigan, maintenance and delayed capital improvements of the facility, procuring a power purchase agreement, upgrading the switch-yard, partnering with a Nuclear Regulatory Commission-licensed operator for the restart, staffing an additional 400 or so qualified and trained staff, and finally a successful Department of Energy application.”

Holtec has been involved in decommissioning a number of Entergy merchant plants along the East Coast over the past several years.

Holtec officials have spoken of plans to decommission the plants and then set up smaller, more cost-efficient nuclear power plants for future use at those sites.

“This application could potentially reactivate the facility to help bridge energy needs until next generation technology, like Holtec’s Small Modular Reactor (SMR-160), are licensed and ready to deploy,” O’Brien said.