COVERT — The decommissioning of Palisades Power Plant is expected to take until 2041.
The plant on the shores of Lake Michigan in Van Buren County shut down its nuclear reactors for the final time May 20.
A 19-year schedule is planned for the decommissioning, said Pat O’Brien, senior communications manager for Holtec International.
Plant owner Entergy will sell the property to Holtec International at the end of June.
The 800-megawatt facility in Covert Township, about seven miles south of South Haven, started operations in 1971. The shutdown was announced in 2017.
The nuclear plant is not generating any power now. The spent nuclear fuel is in cooling pools. Over the next three years, it will be moved into dry cask storage where it will wait for 10 years, O’Brien said.
Right now, there isn’t enough money in the trust fund to pay for the decommissioning process, so those 10 years will allow the fund to grow, O’Brien said.
The remaining six years will be the actual dismantling and removal of the components and buildings across the 400-acre site, O’Brien said.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission gives plants 60 years to go through the decommissioning process, which allows the radioactive material to decay. However, Holtec is just doing the actual decommissioning before the material decays, O’Brien said.
“So, 19 years may sound long but, in the real realm, of a lot of these plants, it’s taking far longer to decommission,” O’Brien said.
Then, the site can be transformed, he said. A part of the area can’t be used until the fuel is moved. Holtec is considering opening an interim storage facility in New Mexico, and Palisades fuel may move there, O’Brien said.
“What that potential reuse of this property could be is something ... we’re committed to working with the local community on what they think that potential future could be,” O’Brien said. “We don’t have any solid plans on what we’d be looking at to place on the property.”
Holtec is creating a small reactor and may install the first one at a decommissioned site in New Jersey, O’Brien said. If the Van Buren community is interested in that, it’s something Holtec would be open to working on.
About 225 employees will be moving from Entergy to Holtec to work with the decommissioning, and around 170 people are transferring to other Entergy facilities. About 180 employees will leave the company, with about half of them retiring.
“It’s kind of emotional,” O’Brien said. “I see the team here and it is hard for any community. I live in a community that’s gone through this. I look forward to bringing on the 200-plus workers to be part of our team.”
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asked the federal government for money April 20 to keep the plant open. A sale is possible, but Entergy has not been approached by a buyer, Palisades Vice President Darrell Corbin said.
Entergy and Holtec plan to go through with the sale, Corbin said.
“If a buyer were to come forward, Palisades, Entergy and Holtec would work together to make sure that buyer received any information that was necessary so that they could make the decision that would be proper for their business,” Corbin said.
The plan was for Palisades to shut down May 31. It was moved up 11 days through a conservative decision because of the performance of a control rod drive seal.
The seal keeps water from leaking out of the reactor, Palisades shift manager Jim Byrd said. The plant had been monitoring it for six to eight month,s and the “principals of conservative decisions” led them to decide to shut it down early, Byrd said.