News Story

Palisades nuclear plant to be torn down, following trend in Michigan

When energy facilities are closed in Michigan, they tend to be torn down

Apparently it wasn’t enough to take the Palisades Nuclear Plant offline amid warnings of a potential summer of blackouts in Michigan, nor for former owner Entergy to sell off the facility last month. Now the whole Palisades plant is scheduled to be torn down, per a report in The Holland Sentinel.

Just last month, Palisades was sold to Holtec Decommissioning International, which the Sentinel described as a company “that specializes in decommissioning nuclear power plants.”

The plant was shut down May 20, after running for 50 years. Michigan Capitol Confidential reported in 2017 that it would take 1,400 wind turbines to replace the energy generated by the Palisades plant. Back then the plant was scheduled to close in 2018. It survived another four years.

Entergy had announced plans in December 2016 to close the nuclear facility in two years, as part of its effort to fully divest from nuclear energy. The Sentinel reports that the Palisades sale “completes the company’s exit of the nuclear merchant power business.”

Jason Hayes, director of environmental policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, noted a trend in North America whereby energy facilities are demolished after being taken offline, rather than kept around in case they are needed later.

Hayes noted that due to restrictions in natural gas supply caused by the war in Ukraine, Germany, Austria, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands have all reconsidered the use of coal as a means of ensuring secure energy supplies. These European nations have restarted once-shuttered coal plants to meet their energy needs and help store natural gas before the coming winter.

They were able to do so, Hayes said, because those plants were still standing. When they are torn down, that flexibility is gone.

“When these European nations shut down their coal plants, they haven’t decommissioned them,” Hayes told CapCon. “They’ve kept them and just set them aside and said, ‘We’re not going to run them.’ So what they’re doing is they’re restarting these mothballed plants. Whereas we shut them down and bulldoze them.”

Germany was also supposed to phase out nuclear power in 2022, but war in Europe has delayed that. According to the World Nuclear Association, Germany has three active nuclear reactors and none under construction. It has taken 30 reactors offline.

Closing Palisades is “like sinking the lifeboats,” University of Michigan professor Todd Allen wrote in Bridge Magazine recently. Allan, who chairs the school’s Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences, argued that the state should step in and keep the plant running.

Allen wrote: “Around the country, when nuclear plants close, their output is replaced by hopes, good intentions, and fossil fuels. That’s what happened in New York when Entergy closed Indian Point, and before that, it happened in Vermont, California and Pennsylvania.”

The decommissioning project will take 19 years, the Sentinel reports.

According to a press release from Holtec International, the first phase, which will take about 3 years, will involve moving the used fuel into robust transportable canisters.

Work will then pause for 10 years, to allow the trust fund balance providing the funding for decommissioning to grow. In the last 6 years of the process, the actual dismantlement and decommissioning of the plant will occur.

The end of the process will open up a 400-acre site on Lake Michigan for commercial or industrial use.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.