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Decommissioning of Palisades continues despite support for restarting it

The Palisades nuclear power plant is on the Lake Michigan shore between Benton Harbor and South Haven.
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
The Palisades nuclear power plant is on the Lake Michigan shore between Benton Harbor and South Haven.

The Palisades Nuclear Plant closed just over a year ago. Since then an effort to reopen it has gained traction, with the new state budget putting $150 million toward that goal.

But there's no guarantee federal regulators will deem the plant safe to reopen. Site owner Holtec International needs approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the unique request. While it waits, Holtec continues to decommission Palisades.

Holtec Senior Manager of Government Affairs and Communications Nick Culp said the cost of the work does not come out of taxpayers’ pockets, but rather from money the plant saved while it was in operation.

“Every site in the country has a decommissioning fund to ensure that its decommissioning and site remediation is paid for into the future,” Culp said.

Culp said Holtec has yet to make permanent changes to Palisades.

"We feel comfortable with the current path that we're on today, where that's still an option, early-stage decommissioning. Nothing has been done at the site that would be irreversible, that would make operations prohibitive in the future," Culp said.

Not everyone wants to see the more than 50-year-old plant reopen. Anne Woiwode with the Michigan chapter of the Sierra Club said the money being put forth for the project would be better spent on other forms of emissions-free energy.

“Spending $150 million of taxpayer money on an unproven effort to restart an old and damaged facility is a truly distressing effort by the state of Michigan,” Woiwode said.

Woiwode also added that since there is no national site for nuclear waste, spent fuel at Palisades gets stored on-site, on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Culp maintains that the storage at the site is both safe and secure, and has room for more waste.

Michael Symonds reports for WMUK through the Report for America national service program.

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