Just months after it was supposedly shut down for good, a Michigan nuclear power plant could come roaring back to life with help from the very company charged with its demolition. According to an AP report published on Wednesday, Holtec Decommissioning International hopes to resurrect the 800 megawatt Palisades Nuclear Generating Station in Michigan’s Van Buren county. However, it faces many logistical challenges alongside vocal opposition from critics.
Regulators removed Palisades’ reactor fuel in a “permanent cessation of power operations” in May 2022. Holtec bought the property from Entergy just weeks later, with plans to dismantle the 432-acre site. However, the Biden administration’s recent $6 billion federal funding allocation towards prolonging nuclear plants’ lifespans has spurred the company to reconsider the plant’s potential, the AP reports. Now, Holtec wants to update the facility and restore its operational capacities for the region’s energy grid. Palisades supplied an estimated 5 percent of all electricity within Michigan when active, according to the AP.
Holtec’s goals are lofty, however: Both regulators and activists had long criticized the plant’s poor conditions in the years leading up to its decommission. In fact, Palisades was forced to close two weeks earlier than anticipated due to the degradation of a device that helped control the atomic reaction. At Holtec’s pitch meeting with the Nuclear Regulatory Committee (NRC), one radioactive waste specialist promised to “fight this proposal at every turn,” and called restart plans “uncharted risk territory,” per AP.
Meanwhile, nuclear energy production looms large over modern society as an immensely powerful alternative to fossil fuels that emits zero CO2. Restoring and expanding nuclear power access is a central component to the Biden administration’s 2050 goal for a net zero carbon emission nation, but notorious crises such as the Chernobyl and Fukushima plant disasters have soured many’s perception of the fuel source. In March, Germany shut down the last of the country’s nuclear facilities.
According to AP, recommissioning the Palisades site will require hundreds of newly hired and trained operators and engineers, alongside a meticulous review of every part of the facility. More uranium would need to be purchased to power the plant, as well. Holtec aims to secure funding and NRC approval by October, with an eye to restart the site in a couple years’ time. The firm is also requesting $300 million in taxpayer assistance to help restart operations. If all goes according to plan, however, Palisades would mark the first US nuclear reactor to restart after losing its fuel and operating license.