Holtec outlines progress towards Palisades restart

15 May 2024

The return of some former staff, the revamping of training facilities including the control room simulator, the submission of regulatory documents and the ordering of new fuel are all highlighted as part of steps taken towards the repowering of the shuttered Palisades nuclear power plant in the USA.

The control room simulator has restarted training (Image: Holtec)

Holtec agreed to purchase the 800 MWe pressurised water reactor for decommissioning from then-owner and operator Entergy in 2018. The acquisition was completed in June 2022, shortly after the reactor's closure, with Holtec, at the time, planning to complete the dismantling, decontamination, and remediation of the plant by 2041. But the company then announced plans to apply for federal funding to enable it to reopen the plant.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer was among those supporting the move and the State 2024 budget provides USD150 million in funding towards the plant's restart. In March this year the US Department of Energy Loan Programs Office conditionally committed up to USD1.52 billion for a loan guarantee - Holtec has to satisfy certain technical, legal, environmental, and financial conditions before DOE enters into definitive financing documents and funds the loan.

Palisades would be the first nuclear power plant in the USA to return to commercial operations after being closed down. Under the plans, it would provide baseload clean power until at least 2051, avoiding some 4.47 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, for a total of 111 million tonnes over 25 years.

In a project update Holtec said there were now 360 staff at the site, up 150 since the restart programme began, including "new talent as well as the return of former plant employees, contributing to the preservation and creation of hundreds of high-paying jobs in Michigan".

Holtec added: "The reconstitution of the plant’s control room simulator and restoration of the operator training programme are both complete and the training building, which had been mothballed for future demolition, is now a bustling hub of industry veterans and talented new associates."

Work is also under way on the off-sIte refurbishment of the generator exciter "and restoration of the reactor vessel’s operational integrity in preparation for a deep chemical cleaning of the plant’s reactor cooling system" with future plans including "inspection of the reactor vessel internals and steam generators ... along with long-term investments in preventive maintenance, equipment repairs, replacements, upgrades, and modifications ... other critical activities, such as the ordering of new fuel for the reactor and long-lead part procurement, are also under way"

The company adds that: "In the regulatory space, we have made significant progress towards reauthorisation of extended operations, submitting five of the major licensing submittals to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and actively engaging in public meetings as a part of that process."

There are also plans for Holtec to site two of its 300 MWe small modular reactors alongside the existing plant, and it said preliminary siting activities were under way with the target of filing a construction permit application in 2026.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News