Licence transfer expands Holtec decommissioning fleet

15 December 2021

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has approved the transfer of the licences for the Palisades nuclear power plant from Entergy Nuclear Operations Inc to Holtec International following the plant's retirement next year. Holtec plans to take control of the Michigan plant and begin its decommissioning with a month of its retirement.

The Palisades plant on the shores of Lake Michigan (Image: Holtec)

Holtec said it looks forward to completing the ownership transfer from Entergy in mid-2022 when it will "assume ownership of the site, real property and all nuclear waste, including used nuclear fuel." The licence transfer also includes Palisades' independent spent fuel storage installation (ISFSI) - an associated facility where some of the plant's used fuel is in dry storage - as well as the licences for the decommissioned Big Rock Point nuclear power plant and its associated used fuel storage facility.

A new subsidiary called Holtec Palisades will be the owner of the site, while Holtec Decommissioning International (HDI) will be the operator and therefore responsible for nuclear safety as it is decommissioned. Holtec said it uses a fleet management model across the Oyster Creek, Pilgrim and Indian Point sites it is in the process of decommissioning.

Palisades is an 805 MWe pressurised water reactor, which has operated for 50 years. Big Rock Point operated from 1962 to 1997. It is fully decommissioned and only the dry fuel storage facility remains.

Entergy in 2018 agreed to sell the Pilgrim nuclear power plant, in Massachusetts, and Palisades to Holtec after their closures. Pilgrim shut down for the last time on 31 May 2019, and Holtec completed its acquisition of the plant in August of that year. Holtec plans to decommission Pilgrim (with the exception of the ISFSI) on an eight-year schedule to permit NRC partial site release.

"The ongoing dose, safety, and environmental protection metrics garnered by Holtec Decommissioning provide definitive proof that the dismantling of a nuclear plant can be a non-intrusive societal presence and an environmentally safe undertaking," the company said.

Palisades is scheduled to shut down on 31 May 2022. Holtec and Entergy expect to conclude the transaction by 30 June, and Holtec plans to move all the fuel in the plant's used fuel pool into dry cask storage within three years of shutdown. NRC's order approving the licence transfer is effective immediately, but the transfer will not be finalised until after the plant's permanent shutdown and the completion of the transaction between Entergy, Holtec and HDI, NRC said.

Separately, Holtec International is developing a small modular reactor called SMR-160. It said in November it is "actively exploring the possibility" of deploying an SMR-160 at Oyster Creek as well as its other sites.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News