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Palisades Power Plant will not close early after all

Sep 28, 2017

The Palisades nuclear power plant will stay open until 2022 after all.

Late last year Entergy, the company that owns the plant, announced that Palisades would shut down early, in the fall of 2018.

Palisades spokesman Val Gent says they told employees Thursday morning, when executives unfurled a big banner that read “2022.”

“Everyone clapped. So you know, I can’t speak for all employees, but the ones I spoke to are very pleased with the decision to continue to operate until 2022,” she said.

About 600 people work at the plant near South Haven.

Michigan’s Public Service Commission announced last week that it would not offer Consumers Energy and Entergy as sweet a financing deal as the companies were looking for in order to close Palisades early. Consumers Energy buys power from Palisades.

Entergy and Consumers asked the Michigan Public Service Commission for securitization bonds worth $184.6 million. MPSC approved $142 million, saying that was the “best value” for ratepayers, who would’ve picked up the cost of financing an early buyout deal over the next six years.

Gent says that’s the main reason the plant will stay open.

It’s good news for the plants employees, local schools and governments that rely on the plant’s tax dollars.

Van Buren County administrator John Faul says the county gets roughly$1 million in taxes from Palisades each year.

“Selfishly, you know, that’s my main concern as the manager of the county, and how we’re going to replace that if we can,” Faul said, “that’s the $1 million question, and I hope we can get that answered in the next five years.”

Faul says they’re still discussing the issues in the region. They’ve applied for a grant to help plan for the inevitable closure as well.

A Consumers Energy’s spokeswoman would not say if or how the announcement changes the company’s plan to replace the more than 800 megawatts Palisades produces. Consumers sought bids over the summer for 800 MW of natural gas production and had made plans to convert and expand its coal plant in Filer City.

“All I can say is that we’re evaluating each piece of our capacity plan individually,” Consumers Energy spokeswoman Katie Carey said.

Kevin Kamps with the anti-nuclear organization Beyond Nuclear released a statement expressing disappointment in the news.  

“As objectionable as it was for ratepayers to have had to pay $142 million, or $186 million, or even more, for the termination of the Power Purchase Agreement contract between Consumers Energy and Entergy Nuclear, it would have been a bargain compared to the catastrophe that could occur if the high-risk Palisades atomic reactor is operated for another five perilous years.”

Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng says when Palisades closes is a business decision that’s up to the company.

“Our regulatory focus will continue to be ensuring the safety of the plant, while it is operating, and when it formally enters the decommissioning process,” she said.