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Gov. Whitmer calls for federal investment to keep Van Buren Co. nuclear plant open

Palisades Power Plant
Posted at 12:09 PM, Apr 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-20 12:31:13-04

LANSING, Mich. — Governor Gretchen Whitmer is asking the U.S. Department of Energy to deploy federal resources to keep Palisades, a nuclear energy facility in Van Buren County, open.

Gov. Whitmer announced Wednesday that she had sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Energy after they published guidance on the first round of funding for the Civil Nuclear Credit (CNC) program.

The CNC program aims to prevent the premature retirement of existing nuclear plants. It’s available for plants that would have otherwise retire and are certified as safe to continue operations.

Palisades, located in Covert Township, employs 600 Michiganders and provided more than 800 megawatts of clean energy, which is enough to power around 800,000 Michigan homes.

The plant is licensed to operate until 2031 but is in the process of being decommissioned with a shutdown date of May 31, 2022, when its current fuel supply runs out. Palisades is owned by Entergy and the power is purchased by Consumers Energy.

After the shutdown, the plant is set to be sold to Holtec Decommissioning International.

“Keeping Palisades open is a top priority,” said Whitmer. “Doing so will allow us to shore up Michigan’s energy supply to prevent price spikes on working families and small businesses, make Michigan more competitive for economic development projects bringing billions in investment, protect hundreds of good-paying jobs for Michiganders, and meet our climate goals. My administration will support an application for funding from this new federal program to keep Palisades open, and I urge the companies involved to think creatively and optimistically about how to leverage this opportunity. Together, we can protect 600 high-paying careers, support over 1,100 jobs in the area, and shore up $363 million in annual, regional economic development. Getting this done will help us continue growing our economy, lowering energy costs for families, and boosting clean energy production in Michigan, which is critical to achieving energy independence.”

Following Whitmer’s announcement, Michigan Conservative Energy Forum Executive Director Ed Rivet released a statement supporting the effort to save the nuclear plant.

“Keeping the Palisades nuclear plant in operation is the right thing to do. Not only will it save hundreds of good paying jobs, but it provides a much-needed supply of emission-free energy as we look to a future of greater electricity demand. With automakers moving us swiftly toward electric vehicles, reliable, clean nuclear energy will make that transition possible,” Rivet stated. “There will be some very high costs if we let Palisades close now. Replacing 800 megawatts of capacity would not be cheap and it would trade clean energy for increased air pollution. We’re confident that next generation nuclear technology and other renewable energy sources will make up our future energy portfolio. But for the present, we must have domestically-produced energy like Palisades.”

Entergy also shared a statement with FOX 17:

“Our focus at Palisades Power Plant remains on the safe and orderly shutdown of the facility in May, followed by transfer of the plant to Holtec Decommissioning International for decommissioning under the terms of a previously executed contract consistent with our announced strategy to exit the merchant power business. We acknowledge having recently been contacted by government officials about the facility potentially operating beyond May 2022. In addition to these conversations, we have and will continue to entertain discussions with qualified nuclear merchant plant owner/operators who may want to purchase and continue operating Palisades. However, it is important to note that no formal proposal to acquire Palisades has been made that provides an opportunity for continued operations and that eliminates the substantial financial and operational risks associated with unwinding the existing contract with Holtec. We remain on schedule for the plant’s permanent shutdown on our previously announced timeline and currently have no additional comment about the outreach we received.

Entergy and its employees have been preparing for the orderly shutdown of Palisades since 2017, when we announced the plant would close in 2022. There are challenges that make continued operation of the facility beyond May 2022 difficult, including the pending transfer of more than 130 employees to other parts of Entergy’s business and planned employee retirements post-shutdown. Additionally, the plant is unable to operate beyond the target closure date due to the diminished power of its nuclear fuel as it reaches the end of its two-year operating cycle. Entergy did not order new nuclear fuel because the plant is scheduled to permanently shut down. The shutdown of Palisades will complete our planned transition out of the merchant power business.

Entergy operates one of the cleanest large-scale power generating fleets in the country, and is fully committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions for our portfolio – all while maintaining affordability and reliability for customers.”

You can read Whitmer’s full letter to the U.S. Department of Energy below.

Palisades Letter by WXMI on Scribd

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