50 years of power generation come to an end for Palisades | Local News

COVERED TWP. — The Palisades Nuclear Generating Station was last shut down on May 20, ending half a century of providing electricity to Consumers Energy customers.

Now the arduous task of draining and dismantling the large factory and its surrounding buildings begins.

Holtec International, based in Jupiter, Fla., a leading company in the decommissioning of nuclear power plants, will purchase the Palisades facility in July to begin the process of safely storing spent nuclear fuel in dry drums at the site of the plant, then demolish and remove the Palisades Reactor and other buildings on the approximately 430-acre property off Blue Star Highway.

“The timeline is about 19 years,” said Pat O’Biren, senior director of government affairs and communications at Holtec.

The company plans to hire 260 current Palisades employees to first move the spent full to dry storage in drums on an enclosed concrete slab, a process expected to take 3 years. The plant and property will then sit idle for approximately 10 years to allow for the financial growth of a trust fund which is set aside to pay for the cost of dismantling Palisades. In March, Holtec said it had $539 million set aside in its Palisades nuclear decommissioning trust fund.

Around 2035, decommissioning will continue for the next six years with demolition of the reactor and other buildings, proper disposal of all components used in the nuclear energy process, proper disposal of any contaminants on the property and restoration of the 430-acre site. to allow for the possibility of future development.

“Nineteen years might seem like a long time, but with other factories that have been decommissioned, the process can take longer,” O’Brien said.

The cost of decommissioning a reactor facility can cost between $280 million and $600 million, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The funds are used for the costs of burying radioactive waste and the proper handling, storage and monitoring of spent fuel.

Security fencing and a security force will remain in place as long as the drums remain on site, according to O’Brien. Palisades officials reiterated Holtec’s obligations to monitor dry drum pads.

“Used fuel will remain secure on site, under watch, monitored during shutdown and decommissioning activities, and subject to NRC oversight until removed by the U.S. Department of Energy, in accordance with its legal obligations,” the company said in a statement. Release.

Everything that will happen to the Palisades property after 19 years is anyone’s guess. A number of South Haven-area residents wondered aloud if a new power plant could be located there.

O’Brien said that was a possibility. Holtec plans to build a small modular reactor plant on the site of the now closed Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in New Jersey. Holtec’s small modular reactor is currently in the testing phase.

Closing the palisades is a “business decision”

Entergy Corp., owner of the Palisades plant since 2007, made the decision in 2017 to begin the process of closing the aging plant.

“It was a business decision,” said Darrell Corbin, vice president of the Palisades site. Because Palisades is a “merchant” power plant, the sale of its fuel is placed on the open market for companies to bid on. In 2016, Entergy was unable to reach an appropriate purchase price agreement with Consumers Energy to produce electricity beyond 2022.

“The closure of Palisades coincides with the expiration of the 15-year power purchase agreement with Consumers Energy, which was a condition of the purchase of Palisades in 2007,” Entergy officials said in a statement. Press release. “The sale of Palisades will complete Entergy’s planned exit from the merchant nuclear power business, following the closure and sale of the Vermont Yankee, Pilgrim and Indian Point plants and the sale of the operating James A. Fitzpatrick plant. “

A sustainable operating history

Over its half-century history, Palisades employed a workforce of 600 at any given time (more during supply outages), paid millions of dollars in taxes to local government units, and was a generous benefactor for many non-profit groups.

The plant closed on May 20 after producing electricity continuously for 577 days since it was last refueled – a site and a world production record for a plant of its type, according to Entergy officials. The plant remains classified in the highest safety category of the US Nuclear Revision Commission and is considered by its peers to be one of the best performing in the industry.

For Corbin, it was the people of Palisades who made it all possible.

“It’s the legacy of Palisades,” he said. “The Factory is where a group of people came together to make Palisades special. Everyone here is a leader.