Holtec files with NRC to restart Palisades

October 9, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News
The Palisades nuclear power plant. (Photo: Entergy)

Holtec International has taken another step on the arduous stairway to Palisades resurrection, announcing last Friday that it has filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to “formally begin the process of seeking federal reauthorization of power operations” at the Covert Township, Mich., facility.

The filing, noted Holtec, follows a series of public meetings with agency staff to lay out a path toward resuming electricity generation at the plant within the NRC’s existing regulatory framework.

Encouraging words: “Our licensing submittal is a significant step in exploring the potential for Palisades to continue contributing to the region’s energy and economic needs, while adhering to the highest safety and regulatory standards,” said Jean Fleming, Holtec’s vice president of licensing, regulatory affairs, and probabilistic safety analysis. “We understand the importance of nuclear power in our nation’s energy mix and the critical role it plays in providing safe, reliable, carbon-free electricity here in Michigan. Palisades’ safety and operational performance met the industry’s highest standards when it was taken off line last year. Its systems and equipment remain well maintained and in excellent material condition. This licensing submittal is the first of a series of submittals intended to return Palisades to full operation.”

Background: Entergy shuttered the single-unit 805-MWe plant in May of last year—completing the utility’s planned exit from the merchant nuclear power business—and the following month transferred the Palisades license to Holtec for decommissioning. In July 2022, however, in an attempt to revive operations at the plant, Holtec submitted an application to participate in the Department of Energy’s initial round of Civil Nuclear Credit Program funding.

While that funding request was rejected last November, Holtec this February filed an application with the DOE’s Loan Programs Office for financial assistance in bringing Palisades back to life. Last month, Holtec spokesperson Patrick O’Brien told Utility Dive that the company expects a final decision on the loan late this year or early next year.

Further, on July 31, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed into law her state’s fiscal year 2024 budget, providing $150 million in funding for a Palisades restart. And on September 12, Holtec jointly announced a decades-long power purchase agreement (PPA) with Michigan’s not-for-profit rural electric cooperative Wolverine Power Cooperative for the sale of Palisades’ power output.

That agreement also contains a contract-expansion provision to include up to two small modular reactors that Holtec intends to build and commission at the Palisades site. The addition of two SMRs at Palisades, Holtec said in its release on the PPA, would translate into the elimination of nearly 7 million tons of carbon dioxide each year from Michigan’s air, or 200 million tons of carbon dioxide over the course of Palisades’ projected service life.

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