News about Palisades – from “rocky history” to shutdown announcement and beyond
Editor’s note: News about Palisades Nuclear Generating Station took so much space on our News Page that we decided to put it somewhere else. This is our Palisades Chronology page 5, covering developments from mid-June to mid-July, 2017.
- Page 1 begins with the July, 2016, controversy about falsified security reports, and continues through Sierra Club Southwest Michigan Group’s January 12, 2017, adoption of its resolution supporting the Palisades shutdown.
- Page 2 goes from mid-January, 2017, up to MPSC’s mid-February announcement that it would hold its first public hearing in the case on March 9.
- Page 3 carries our Palisades Chronology to the end of March and the disclosure that Palisades may not be able to handle a tornado.
- Page 4 runs from the beginning of April through June 9 – meeting reports, case updates.
- Page 5 ends with the July 13 program that Bette Pierman organized with Chris Williams, who shared what he’s learned watching the decommissioning at Entergy’s Vermont Yankee plant.
- Page 6 recaps a Palisades “Event Report” and the July 26 Open House, with more to come.
On December 9, 2016, the day after the Palisades shutdown news release, The Herald Palladium published a comprehensive timeline covering “Palisades’ rocky history.” The timeline begins a few months before the January 28, 1966, headline that hailed a new “$100 million electrical plant.” The March, 1973, timeline entry reports that “after eight years and $170 million,” Palisades got the okay to operate at full power. The Palladium’s Palisades chronology ends with the August, 2016, announcement that Anthony Vitale, who’d been in charge at Palisades for five years, was being replaced. We started our palisades chronology in mid-July, 2016 – a month before Entergy named a new boss at Palisades.
Palisades Chronology Page 5
Our Palisades Chronology Page 5 includes the news that MPSC has extended its own deadline for ruling in the case, reports on meetings and planning sessions, and a report of our special program on decommissioning.
The Palisades shutdown working group held a meeting June 17 in South Haven to discuss strategy. Plans will depend on MPSC’s ruling in the case and what we learn as we go along. MPSC plans to announce its decision in August. The group allocated interim projects and scheduled its next meeting for August 19, to allow MPSC leeway on its self-imposed deadline and to allow ourselves time to consider the proper response to MPSC’s ruling.
On June 20, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission held a meeting at its Rockville, MD, HQ. Parties interested in the four Entergy sites that have been shut down or are scheduled to close were invited to attend in person or by conference call. The topic was decommissioning plans. Entergy gave a PowerPoint presentation (available here). “Decommissioning discussion goes off track” reported the Cape Cod Times, as people “peppered federal regulators and Entergy representatives with a long list of questions they had not come prepared to answer.” A report from Greenfield Recorder on the meeting dealt almost exclusively with high-level nuclear waste, which is “likely to be kept at nuke plants.” Michigan Safe Energy Future will hold a much more informative meeting on decommissioning Thursday evening, July 13, at Lake Michigan College South Haven Campus.
July 7, July 12
On July 7, Consumers Energy asked MPSC to extend the deadline for its decision in the Consumers/Entergy power purchase agreement buyout case to September 28, 2017. MPSC and all intervenors stipulated that they had no objections. On July 12, Administrative Law Judge Sharon L. Feldman issued an order extending the deadline as requested. MPSC had originally committed to issuing its decision in August.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has announced that it will hold an open house “to discuss its assessment of Palisades Nuclear Plant performance and other NRC activities as the plant prepares for closure,” according to MLive. Time and place:
- 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM, Wednesday, July 26
- Baymont Inn and Suites Conference Center, 1555 Phoenix Rd., South Haven
Entergy may sell Palisades to a decommissioning company.
A website called Exchange Monitor, a division of Access Intelligence, cited “AREVA Nuclear Materials” as saying “it had signed a deal to extract and ship the reactor pressure vessel and internal reactor parts at the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station for prospective plant owner NorthStar Group Services.” For NorthStar to becomes the actual owner, it would have to buy the plant from Entergy. Apparently referring to NorthStar, the report, which provides no corroborating links, says:
The New York-based decommissioning specialist hopes by the first quarter of next year to secure state and federal regulatory approval to buy the shuttered facility from power company Entergy for cleanup. It aims to complete decommissioning as early as 2026, decades before the schedule set by Entergy.
AREVA Nuclear Materials is a U.S. subsidiary of a French company. NorthStar is a company that advertises “safe and efficient nuclear facility decommissioning.” Exchange Monitor’s report cited “an Entergy spokesman” as naming two other nuclear plants that Entergy is considering selling to the decommissioning company: Pilgrim in Massachusetts and Palisades in Michigan.
Entergy has asked the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to allow a cutback on plant security when Palisades closes. The request notification says that:
Entergy submitted a request for exemption from specific provisions of 1 O CFR 73.55, “Requirements for physical protection of licensed activities in nuclear power reactors against radiological sabotage,” for Palisades to the NRC for approval.
One of the “specific provisions” is “related to the suspension of security measures in an emergency or during severe weather for Palisades.” It seems clear that the plant’s shutdown will not immediately reduce the plant’s stockpile of high-level nuclear waste subject to radiological sabotage during an emergency or severe weather. NRC estimated that evaluating and ruling on Entergy’s request will take about a year.
Activist Chris Williams, who’s been watching the decommissioning at Entergy’s Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, presented a program in South Haven to let Southwest Michigan folks know what to expect when the process gets underway at Palisades. Rebecca Thiele of WMUK was on hand for the program at the South Haven campus of Lake Michigan College on the evening of July 13. Click here to see her report.
Among the key points Williams made:
- The people of Vermont formed an independent panel of Vermont citizens, state and local agencies and authorities, news media, interested organizations, and workers and companies involved in decommissioning at Vermont Yankee. The panel meets regularly to communicate with one another and to keep the public aware of the process and its progress. Williams said it was crucial that a similar panel be established to assure accountability at Palisades.
- The decommissioning program’s financial aspects, such as available funds, budget considerations, and the temptation to save money by cutting corners will require special attention. Right now, Entergy is obligated to completely finance the decommissioning. If Entergy sells the plant to a decommissioning company, the transaction must not push any of this cost onto the Michigan public. Cleanup estimates at Vermont Yankee exceed a billion dollars. The Palisades decommissioning fund has only $427 million.
- Short-term and long-term plans for safe handling of the high-level nuclear waste that Palisades has been producing for more than 45 years will be critical.
End of Palisades Chronology, Page 5
Quicklinks to our Palisades Chronology pages
- Page 1 starts with the Palisades timeline – day one to December 8, 2016 – published in The Herald Palladium and takes us to mid-January and SWMG’s adoption of its Palisades Shutdown Resolution.
- Page 2 provides an expert’s translation of Consumers Energy’s 99-page response to MPSC’s list of questions and info on other financial concerns.
- Page 3 looks at local issues and comments from mid-February and ends with the March 30 disclosure that Palisades was not designed to withstand a tornado.
- Page 4 reports on several public meetings held from April to early June, 2017, and has several updates in MPSC’s case, including info on how to send comments to MPSC.
- Page 5 goes from mid-June to the presentation Bette Pierman organized, with Chris Williams from Vermont warning us about what to watch for when Palisades goes into its decommissioning phase.
- Page 6 has an “Event Report” from Entergy two months after the fact, a very-next-day report from Kraig Schultz on the July 26 Palisades Open House, and more to come.