COVERT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The Palisades Nuclear Power Plant near South Haven is on the road to being decommissioned.
Operators took their last reactor at the Covert Township plant offline on Friday. On Tuesday, News 8 watched as operators performed a simulation of the process.
Entergy, the company that owns the plant, originally announced plans to stop operations at the Covert Township plant in 2017. They say it was a business decision.
“It’s finances and it’s a business decision. When all these nuclear plants were built, we basically were in a regulated environment and in that case, companies make money based on the investment that they’re making,” said Palisade Site Vice President Darrell Corbin. “With fracking and natural gas, the economics became less and less for nuclear plants with the cost structure and overhead and subsidies.”
Entergy says they still have about 90% of their work force currently employed at the plant. While some employees are set to move to another location within the company, others will retire after decades-long careers.
“We have good people here, good, hardworking people who serve their community,” said Bobby Walker, who will soon retire after 37 years with Entergy. “I was on a journey. That journey was a good journey, the journey ends some time.”
Some employees will stay behind to join Holtec, the company taking over the plant in a few weeks, as they begin the decommissioning process.
“We’ll go ahead and de-fuel, move all the fuel out of the primary system vessel into the spin fuel pool vessel and then starting next year we’ll move all of that fuel out into dry cast storage and put it on our dry cast storage pad,” said nuclear training manager Jim Byrd of the process ahead. “Then from that point on and some point later on, we’ll start returning the site to green field, taking down all the structures as well as removing any decontamination.”
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced this month she wants the nuclear plant to keep operating. So far, Entergy says there’s no buyer to continue operations.
Holtec says there’s several possibilities for what could come of the Palisades. Operators say they will spend the next three years removing fuel, take a 10 year pause and then remove buildings from the plant grounds during the remaining six years.
In total, the plan will take 19 years, meaning remediation efforts will continue until 2041.
“Technically under the NRC rules, you have 60 years to decommission a plant and there’s a couple aspects to that. One is to ensure that the trust fund has enough money to start and there’s some thought process about delaying commissioning, allowing some of the radioactivity to decay,” said Pat O’Brien, who is the government affairs and communications senior manager for Holtec.
Holtec will officially take ownership of the plant at the end of June.