Despite efforts to resume the operation of the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in Covert Township, it appears its decommissioning will begin in earnest.
Holtec International, which bought the plant from Entergy Inc., has been given the green light from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to start the process of decommissioning the facility.
NRC inspectors have been on site at the plant since it went offline in May to meet with plant officials and examine their plans for dismantling the plant in a safe manner.
"The window for the NRC 90-day review ends Sept. 29, when Holtec will be allowed to take major decommissioning activities," said Rhex Edwards, senior decommissioning reactor inspector for the NRC, during a meeting, Sept. 22 at Lake Michigan College campus in South Haven.
Holtec officials will do exactly that, despite this month's announcement that the company had applied for a federal grant under the Department of Energy's Civil Nuclear Credit program to continue operation of the plant.
This was among the topics discussed Sept. 22, as the NRC hosted a public hearing at Lake Michigan College to gather public input on the decommissioning plan.
Holtec spokesperson Patrick O'Brien, who was at the hearing, confirmed the likelihood of operating the plant was up in the air at the moment.
"Our focus is on decommissioning," he said.
O'Brien said several things would need to occur in order for the plant to remain open, including a company to buy it – something which has not yet occurred.
"As we have said both publicly before we acquired, and since we took ownership of the Palisades plant, we remain committed to helping the nuclear and energy industries meet challenges and find solutions," O'Brien said.
The company submitted a 98-page plan to the NRC for dismantling the plant and the cost for doing so.
About 35 people attended Thursday's public hearing, many of whom were there to see whether the commission would play a role in keeping the plant open – or ensure its dismantlement.
Bruce Watson, chief of the NRC's Reactor Decommissioning Branch, said the purpose of the hearing was to gather input on Holtec's plans to decommission.
"The purpose of the meeting is to get your comments," he told the audience. "Many of you think we're here to talk about restarting the plant. We have not received any applications as of yet (to restart the plant)."
Decommissioning of the plant is expected to cost $644 million, according to Holtec's decommissioning plan. Dismantling the plant will entail the removal of spent fuel from the plant's nuclear reactor and safely storing it in 25 dry storage casks that will be placed next to the older dry storage casks already on site. That process is expected to conclude in 2025. For the next 15 years, the plant will slowly be dismantled and the property returned to its original state.