Michigan governor urges DOE to support reopening of Palisades nuclear plant

Michigan’s governor has asked the Department of Energy (DOE) to support Holtec International’s efforts to “save” the 800 MW Palisades nuclear power plant, marking a potential turnaround for the southwestern Michigan facility, who was last taken offline May 20, 2022, after 50 years of operation.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is in a letter dated September 9 asked DOE Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to support Holtec’s plans to “re-energize and reopen” Palisades, a single pressurized water reactor in Covert, Mich., that had been in operation since 1971. closure of the plant in May by its former operator, Entergy Nuclear, was widely deplored. by the nuclear industry and environmental groups. While Entergy said it believed nuclear power would be essential to the national goal of mitigating the impact of climate change, the company closed the plant as part of a broader strategic plan for the company to phase out merchant nuclear generation and concentrate its utility operations in the southern Gulf.

State efforts to save the plant, which employed 600 workers during its operation, however, continued. “Keeping the stockades open is critical to Michigan’s competitiveness and future economic development opportunities,” the governor wrote Friday. “We are ready to do our part if they receive funding through the [Civil Nuclear Credit (CNC)] program, including identifying state funding and facilitating a power purchase agreement.

The Palisades Generating Station was a single unit pressurized water reactor nuclear power plant with a capacity of approximately 800 MW. Courtesy: Entergy

A Potential Lifeline: The DOE’s Civilian Nuclear Credit Program

Holtec International, headquartered in Camden, New Jersey, which acquired the Big Rock Point site from Entergy in June, confirmed that it submitted a federal grant application to the Department of Energy (DOE) CNC program.

The April 2022 – program unveiled distribute $6 billion in credits (in specific allocations of $1.2 billion per year for fiscal years 2022 to 2026) from November 2021 – enacted Infrastructure Investment and Employment Act in the form of civil nuclear credits to preserve the existing American nuclear fleet. After revised DOE eligibility criteria for the program in June – in response to a request from the California governor’s office to address limitations affecting Pacific Gas & Electric’s (PG&E) 2.2 GW power plant at Diablo Canyon – the agency extended the date Submission deadline for undergraduate CNC certification applications until September 1. 6. The submission period is now over.

The first round of CNC awards, currently underway, prioritizes reactors most at risk of imminent shutdown and have already announced plans to cease operations by September 30, 2026. While the DOE has yet to issue guidance for the second cycle , which the DOE will likely launch in the first quarter of fiscal year 2023, the DOE indicated that the second cycle would not be limited to nuclear reactors that have publicly announced their intention to retire. It will likely include owners or operators of nuclear reactors who receive payments from public programs, such as zero-emissions credits and clean energy contracts.

In her letter, notably, Governor Whitmer also called on the DOE to support a federal loan guarantee for Palisades through the DOE’s Loan Program Office (LPO). Holtec International did not report requesting a loan guarantee for the Palisades nuclear facility. Holtec, however, appears to be making progress on a loan application for the construction of the company’s four SMR-160 small modular reactors (SMRs). Holtec’s SMR loan application identifies two potential locations for its $7.4 billion plan: one in Entergy’s service area and the other in the now closed Oyster Creek nuclear power plant. which she bought from Exelon in 2018.

During a September 2 Cowen’s Energy Transition Podcast Series podcast, LPO Director Jigar Shah said the Federal Loans Office had received 77 applications seeking nearly $81 billion in loan proceeds, representing about $150 billion worth of projects. Shah noted that LPO has an additional $40 billion lending authority that it will allocate to projects that meet the Title 17 innovation criteria.”If you meet these criteria, we are truly agnostic to the title Fossil, Nuclear, Renewable Energy and Efficient Energy,” he said. “Generally, whether it’s Diablo Canyon or the Palisades nuclear plant that recently shut down in Michigan, or whether it’s other plants, if they want our help in able to make sure they can upgrade the plant so it can last for so many years to come, we are here to serve,” he said.

New owner Holtec hopes Palisades will reopen

Whitmer said Friday the formal request to the DOE comes “after months of hard work and collaboration” to save the Palisades plant, saying Holtec has worked with the state to reopen the plant. In a statement Friday, Holtec President and CEO Dr. Kris Singh applauded Whitmer’s leadership in “to recognize the vital importance of Palisades to Michigan’s clean energy future as a safe and reliable source of carbon-free electricity.” Singh added that the company will look forward to We “hope to continue to work with the administration as well as our federal, state and community partners to make that hope a reality.”

At the same time, however, Holtec is continuing its efforts with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to complete dismantling, decontamination and remediation of palisades to NRC standards by 2041. The company’s decommissioning arm, Holtec Decommissioning International, the On December 23, 2020, submitted a post-shutdown dismantling report at NRC. The report includes a site-specific decommissioning cost estimate and an overview of Holtec’s planned activities, schedule, expected costs and environmental impacts for the decommissioning of the Palisades plant. The NRC announced on Friday that it would hold a public meeting on the plan to dismantle the Michigan plant on September 22.

Sonal Patel is associate editor of POWER (@sonalcpatel, @POWERmagazine).

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