COVERT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The new owner of the Palisades nuclear power plant in Van Buren County wants to start producing electricity once again.
Holtec International is talking with federal regulators about reversing the decommissioning process, which is already underway.
The company says it is seeking loans from the Department of Energy and funding from the state to get the plant operational, according to Patrick O’Brien, the director of government affairs and communications.
“Obviously what we’re trying to do is something that has never been done before,” O’Brien said.
The plant has not been producing electricity since May of last year. Holtec is expecting growth in demand for electricity.
“Everyone wants to electrify cars and everything along those lines and what you really need is baseload power to be able to do that so that would help you know fill that need and what’s projected,” O’Brien said.
Holtec is proposing restarting the nuclear reactor and the potential for small modular reactors to be added that are still being developed. It says reopening the plant would provide good jobs and can be done safely with maintenance upgrades.
“We take that all into account and ensure that everything meets the NRC standards to restart,” O’Brien said.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the company’s current license at Palisades is only for possessing used nuclear fuel and does not allow for operating the reactor. The agency says current licensing processes allow for amending or providing an exemption.
“We would be facing both extreme ends of the risk spectrum at Palisades if Holtec gets its way,” O’Brien said.
Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste specialist with Beyond Nuclear, is advocating for the decommissioning process to continue.
He said the age and condition of the plant puts people living in the region and Lake Michigan at risk. The group says renewable energy is a better option, which does not create radioactive waste.
“Renewables built from scratch, more quickly, more affordably, and certainly more safely and securely than all of these nuclear nightmare schemes,” Kamps said.
Todd Allen, the chair of the nuclear engineering department at the University of Michigan, sees the proposal as possible but a lot of steps would need to happen for that to occur including rehiring staff.
“We’ve never had a plant where they’ve gone to that step and then tried to reverse it,” Allen said. “There’s going to be all sorts of material condition of the plant. Is there maintenance that needs to be done. Is there fuel that needs to be purchased?”
The NRC says Holtec has stated it wants to decide if it will move forward with the proposal by the end of the year, most likely by the middle of the summer.