Company begins formal process of seeking federal approval for repowering of reactor

Holtec bought Palisades in 2022 to decommission the 805-MW pressurised water reactor facility. Courtesy Holtec.

Florida-based energy company Holtec International has formally begun the process of seeking federal reauthorisation to restart the single-unit Palisades nuclear power station in Michigan with a planned date for repowering set in 2025.

The company said a filing with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission follows a series of public meetings with NRC staff to lay out the path to “reauthorise the repowering of Palisades within the agency’s existing regulatory framework”.

If successful, the move would allow the first ever US reopening of a shut-down commercial nuclear power plant.

The restart could be approved in 2024 and Holtec has set a target date of August 2025 for restarting power operations at Palisades, unconfirmed reports said.

Holtec is seeking a loan from the US Department of Energy to support the restart of Palisades. Local press reports said officials from Holtec had met NRC representatives last week, but no updates on the loan or when a decision may come were given.

Holtec bought Palisades in 2022 to decommission the 805-MW pressurised water reactor facility, which had struggled to compete with natural gas-fired plants and renewable energy.

The plant shut about 10 days earlier than expected in May 2022, after discovery of a problem with a control rod drive seal.

Holtec initially planned to repurpose the 174-hectare site but the Biden administration’s $6bn (€5.6bn) of aid for upgrading nuclear facilities in the US led the company to reconsider its plans.

Nuclear energy is a crucial element of president Joe Biden’s goal of an economy with net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Hurdles ‘Are Not Insurmountable’

Reuters quoted an energy policy analyst at ClearView Energy Partners as saying Holtec faces a series of regulatory hurdles for a Palisades restart. But those are “surmountable” and there are “favourable odds” that Palisades will re-open by the company’s expected date of August 2025.

In September Holtec signed an agreement with Wolverine Power Cooperative to buy power to re-open Palisades.

According to the long-term power purchase agreement, Wolverine Power Cooperative, a not-for-profit energy provider to the rural communities across Michigan, is committing to purchase up to two-thirds of the carbon-free power generated by the Palisades plant for its Michigan-based member rural electric cooperatives.

The agreement also contained a contract expansion provision to include up to two small modular reactors that Holtec intends to build and commission at the site.

Wolverine’s nonprofit rural electric cooperative project partner, Hoosier Energy, will purchase the balance.

In July the state of Michigan’s budget included $150m to support the restart of the Palisades. Provision of the money depends on federal support for the reopening.

Date: Tuesday, 10 October 2023
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