Nuclear Pollution

Why the Palisades nuclear power plant shut down one week early

Palisades Power Plant shut down its reactor Friday, ending five decades of operation and likely ending Michigan officials’ attempt to find another operator for the west Michigan nuclear facility.

The closure was more than a week ahead of schedule; May 31 had been Palisades’ scheduled shutdown date. Owner Entergy Nuclear said operators closed the plant early because of the performance of a control rod drive seal.

“The enduring legacy of Palisades is the thousands of men and women who safely, reliably, and securely operated the plant, helping power Southwest Michigan homes and businesses for more than 50 years,” site Vice President Darrell Corbin said in a press release.

The control rod drive mechanism had a degrading seal, said Prema Chandrathil, US Nuclear Regulatory Commission public affairs officer, who described the early shutdown as “a conservative decision based on equipment performance” and not required by the NRC.

Inspectors observed the shutdown and identified no concerns, Chandrathil said.

The Friday shutdown paves the way for Entergy to transfer Palisades’ operating license and sell the plant to Holtec International, a New Jersey company that will decommission it. The sale is expected July 1, said Joseph Delmar, Holtec senior director of government affairs and communications.

That plan is unpopular with environmental groups and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, who unsuccessfully intervened in the companies’ request for a license transfer last year. The parties raised concerns about Holtec’s plans to decommission the facility without spending any money beyond what is already saved in the plant’s trust fund.

More:State fears nuclear nightmare on Lake Michigan’s shores

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in late April announced she would support a company’s attempt to keep Palisades operating using funding from the $6 billion Civil Nuclear Credit Program, a fund created through the federal infrastructure law designed to subsidize nuclear plants that are slated for closure because of financial issues.

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