LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she will do everything she can to keep Palisades, a nuclear power plant in southwest Michigan, open. The energy company that runs Palisades says it would like to shut down.
On Wednesday, Whitmer wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Energy saying it was “top priority” to keep Palisades open.
The nuclear energy facility in Covert Township employs 600 people. Whitmer wrote in her letter that Palisades is critical to regional economy and provides over 800 megawatts of clean energy, which is enough to power around 800,000 Michigan homes. It is currently licensed to operate until 2031.
The governor’s letter comes after the U.S. Department of Energy published guidance urging the federal government to use resources from the Civil Nuclear Credit program to keep the facility open. The CNC aims to prevent the premature retirement of existing nuclear plants that are still certified and safe to continue operations.
Palisades is in the process of being decommissioned because of financial distress and is scheduled to shut down May 31, when its current fuel supply runs out and power purchase agreement expires, according to the letter. Then it will be sold to Holtec Decommissioning International, with a closing date of June 30.
The governor wrote that the state has a “new path forward to save Palisades,” and that it has had conversations with the plant owner and leading nuclear operators who may be interested in buying Palisades and keeping it operational through its currently licensed date of 2031.
“I intend to do everything I can to keep this plant open, protect jobs, and expand clean energy production,” Whitmer wrote.
Michael Keegan, the co-chair of Don’t Waste Michigan, said he has been fighting to shut down the plant since 1986.
“The time is way overdue to shut it down,” Keegan said. “We have better cheaper reliable energy sources, we need to move to them. And this is just a political power play by Granholm and Gretchen Whitmer. It’s going to be an albatross, it’s going to be a millstone around their necks and this sucker cannot run.”
In a Wednesday statement, Entergy, the owner-operator of Palisades, emphasized that its focus remains on the “safe and orderly shutdown of the facility in May.” It acknowledged that Entergy has been contacted by government officials and will continue to have conversations with qualified nuclear merchant plant owners and operators who may want to purchase and continue operating the facility.
But with no formal proposal yet, Palisades remains on schedule for permanent shutdown.
“Entergy and its employees have been preparing for the orderly shutdown of Palisades since 2017, when we announced the plant would close in 2022,” the statement said.
Consumers Energy sold the plant to Entergy in 2007.
“If there was a way where Palisades could continue to deliver affordable and reliable energy for our customers in a way that makes sense for them for an affordability standpoint, Consumers Energy would be open to having those conversations with our partners,” Consumers Energy Spokesperson Joshua Paciorek told News 8.
Entergy is in the process of moving more than 130 employees to other parts of its business or to retirement post-shutdown. It is also nearing the end of a two-year nuclear fuel operating cycle. Entergy did not order new nuclear fuel to keep the plant running past May because of the scheduled shutdown.
Although the plant is licensed to operate until 2031, Keegan said it needs to shut down now.
“The first rule when you find yourself in a hole, is to stop digging,” Keegan said. “So stop sending good money after bad chasing it down these avenues. What could you get for that money if you invest it elsewhere?”