COVERT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The state budget passed Wednesday night includes millions to help reopen the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant near South Haven.
The $150 million put toward the plant is welcoming news to supporters and the company that runs it, Holtec International, but not so much for those against it.
Kevin Kamps, a radioactive waste specialist for the group Beyond Nuclear, believes state lawmakers are making the wrong call, saying nuclear power is too expensive, dangerous, and slow.
“They are facing years to restart. We don’t have that kind of time,” Kamps said. “Brand-new renewables, brand-new efficiency, brand-new storage could come in faster and cheaper than even the $150 million that the state wants to hand over to Holtec.”
But Holtec International, who owns Palisades, said the $150 million from the state and additional funding needed from the feds can help get the plant back online and create hundreds of jobs.
“The plant had never run better up until it had shut down last year. We’re in the (Nuclear Regulatory Commission)’s highest safety category, and we’ve been recognized in the industry as one of the top performers,” said Nick Culp, senior manager for the company’s government affairs and communications. “We’re talking about bringing clean and reliable baseload generation back online for the state of Michigan, meet future energy demand, mitigate climate change. And from the economic side: create jobs, add millions of dollars of revenue back to the local tax base per year and to support economic growth.”
The budget’s language from the Democratic-controlled House said it “(finds) and (declares) the (funding)… is for a public purpose, including providing for reliable, adequate and available energy resources in this state.”
Democratic Representative Joey Andrews of Saint Joseph added that repowering the plant would “(ensure) hundreds of jobs with amazing benefits and family-sustaining wages are protected.”
The plant closed in May 2022 to begin the decommissioning process. Nuclear experts say restarting it would be unprecedented.
“It hasn’t been done before. It’s got a certain amount of technical and regulatory challenges associated with it,” said Todd Allen, professor of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences at the University of Michigan.
Allen further explained that the decision on whether to bring Palisades back online is ultimately up to the federal government.
“They have to go to the regulator of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and convince them that they have the staffing, that they have done the inspections on all the material at the plant,” he said. “There’s a lot of things they’re going to have to do to convince the regulator that they’re in a position to operate the plant safely.”
A spokesperson for the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission released a statement Thursday evening:
“If the NRC receives a formal request from the company to operate the plant the agency will determine a path forward accordingly, based on whatever facts and rationale are provided, to ensure the highest standards of safety.
We can’t speculate on how a plant might seek permission to restart, or what form of regulatory action that might require. The only documents we have received from Holtec regarding Palisades relate to the plant’s decommissioning, and we are proceeding accordingly with those.
No plant has ever sought permission to restart after certifying permanent cessation of operations and defueling of the reactor. No commercial nuclear power plant may operate in the United States unless the NRC has reasonable assurance that it can operate safely.”NRC spokesperson
Palisades said it has been working with the U.S. Department of Energy on a federal loan application process including meetings with NRC staff but it has not yet submitted a formal proposal to reauthorize power operations.
If the plant is authorized to recommission, the state expects the plant to be back online by 2027, but the company intends to do so by 2025.