Holtec applies to restart shuttered Palisades plant

06 October 2023

The Palisades plant in Michigan could become the first successfully restarted nuclear power plant in the USA following Holtec International's submission of a filing with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to formally begin the process of seeking reauthorisation of power operations at the plant, which was shut down in May 2022.

Palisades (Image: Holtec)

Holtec said the filing follows a series of public meetings with NRC staff to lay out the path to reauthorise the repowering of Palisades within the NRC's existing regulatory framework.

"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 International 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 offline 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."

Palisades, a single-unit power plant, began commercial operation in 1971. Entergy announced in 2016 its plan to close the plant, with the NRC approving in 2021 the transfer of the licence from Entergy to Holtec for the purposes of decommissioning it. The 805 MWe pressurised water reactor was removed from service - after 50 years - by Entergy on 20 May last year, and defuelled by 10 June.

The sale to Holtec completed later that same month and Holtec announced a few days later that it was applying for federal funding to allow it to restart the plant. It was unsuccessful in the first round of the US Department of Energy's (DOE's) Civil Nuclear Credit programme but announced in December that it was reapplying. Holtec said it is "working cooperatively with the DOE to move the loan application process forward".

On 31 July, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed into law the State of Michigan's Fiscal Year 2024 budget, which provides USD150 million in funding for the plant's restart.

Last month, Holtec announced it had signed a long-term power purchase agreement with the non-profit Wolverine Power Cooperative. Under the multi-decade agreement, Wolverine commits to purchasing two-thirds of the power generated from a reopened Palisades, with Wolverine's partner Hoosier Energy purchasing the balance. It also includes a "contract expansion provision" to include one or two small modular reactors that Holtec plans for the site.

Holtec said the repowering of Palisades "will greatly enhance Michigan's carbon-free energy generation, the region's grid reliability and decrease the region's reliance on (expensive) energy imports".

Kelly Trice, President of Holtec Nuclear Generation and Decommissioning, added: "Holtec plans to build up the Palisades site into a mega-clean energy provider to the region with the restarted Palisades power plant as its centrepiece."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News