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Federal money could supercharge state efforts to preserve nuclear power
A plant in Michigan might become the first to reopen after closing.
BY:  - FEBRUARY 12, 2024 5:00 AM

A nuclear plant on Lake Michigan.
The Palisades nuclear plant in Michigan will reportedly be awarded a $1.5 billion federal loan, aimed at restarting operations after a 2022 closure. The federal funding could bolster state efforts to keep nuclear power on the grid, as leaders seek to transition to carbon-free electricity. Courtesy of The Herald-Palladium

In the coming years, a nuclear power plant on the shores of Lake Michigan could become the first in the country to restart operations after shutting down.

The Palisades plant in southwest Michigan could be revived by a $1.5 billion loan from the U.S. Department of Energy, Bloomberg reported. Federal officials have not yet confirmed the funding, but Dr. Kathryn Huff, assistant secretary in the agency’s Office of Nuclear Energy, told Stateline that it would be “exciting” and “historic” to see the plant return to life.

The potential federal investment comes as state leaders in Michigan and elsewhere have worked to preserve their nuclear power capacity. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer successfully pushed for $150 million in state funding last year to support the Palisades restart. The plant is owned by Florida-based Holtec International, which bought it in 2022 to decommission it.

Reviving the plant “is really significant to make sure we can meet our clean-energy goals,” said Kara Cook, chief of staff with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. “This is really important to us not only from a climate perspective, but also the economic impact on the region.”

As states seek to transition to carbon-free electricity, some leaders acknowledge their climate change goals may be out of reach if they can’t keep their nuclear plants online. Nuclear has struggled to compete on cost with other power sources — while also facing concerns about safety risks and radioactive waste — but it provides 18% of the nation’s electricity. The closure of nuclear plants, some state officials fear, could lead to an expansion of fossil fuel-powered replacements, worsening the climate problem.

“You’re starting to see a lot of states transition to a position where they’re supportive of nuclear,” said Todd Allen, chair of the Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences department at the University of Michigan. “And compared to 30 years ago, the amount of federal support for nuclear is unbelievable.”

California also received a boost of federal money in an award finalized last month to keep open a nuclear plant run by Pacific Gas and Electric, known as PG&E. Other states, including Connecticut, Illinois and New Jersey, have passed legislation in recent years to provide subsidies for existing nuclear plants.

Huff, the federal energy official, said U.S. nuclear production may need to reach 200 gigawatts — roughly double the current capacity — to provide clean, “always-on” power as less-constant solar and wind provide a growing share of the nation’s electricity. Last year, the Biden administration committed to an international pledge to triple nuclear capacity by 2050.

“We’re still going to need a significant amount of nuclear to back that all up,” she told Stateline. “Keeping existing plants online is the easiest way to ensure nuclear power can back up renewables.”

Meanwhile, both red and blue states have taken steps to allow for the development of small modular reactors, an emerging technology that backers say can help to power rural areas or industrial operations without the demands of a large plant. Six states — Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Montana, West Virginia and Wisconsin — recently repealed bans on adding new nuclear power, in part to enable such reactors.

You’re starting to see a lot of states transition to a position where they’re supportive of nuclear.

– Todd Allen, chair of the Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences department at the University of Michigan

While some environmental groups have embraced the nuclear investments, others have pointed to long-standing concerns about safety issues, citing infamous accidents such as those at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima. Opponents also note the long-term issue of radioactive waste storage, and in some cases assert that nuclear can stall the growth of renewables such as wind and solar.

“With the amount of money that’s gone into this [Palisades] restart scheme already, you could develop brand-new renewable energy proposals that would be online in the same time frame producing more electricity,” said Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste specialist at Beyond Nuclear, an environmental nonprofit that opposes nuclear energy.

While more states have passed policies to give nuclear a boost, federal funding in Michigan and elsewhere could supercharge efforts to ensure plants stay open. The Department of Energy is distributing $6 billion from the federal infrastructure law to help save reactors that were slated for closure. The agency awarded funding to the California plant in the first round but has not yet announced awardees from the second round, although applications closed last May.

The agency also is overseeing a loan program — which reportedly will provide the Palisades funding — to repower or repurpose energy infrastructure.

The Department of Energy is distributing $6 billion to help save reactors that were slated for closure.

The federal climate law passed in 2022 also opened tax credits for new and existing nuclear plants, designed to incentivize clean energy production in the same way existing credits support wind and solar. Since the passage of the tax credits, Huff said, federal regulators have seen an increased interest from plant operators pursuing license renewals to extend the operating life of their reactors.

Meanwhile, the CHIPS and Science Act passed by Congress also includes funding for federal nuclear research, university programs, new research reactors, isotope production and advanced reactors.

The federal support is providing “huge stimulation” to nuclear power while working in tandem with existing state efforts, said Christine Csizmadia, senior director of state governmental affairs and advocacy with the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry trade association.

Michigan reboot

When Palisades closed amid financial struggles in 2022, it represented roughly 5% of Michigan’s electricity supply. That has been replaced largely with natural gas generation, Cook said. The expansion of fossil fuel-based power conflicts with legislation passed last year requiring the state to move to 100% clean energy by 2040.

So when the plant’s new owner, Holtec International, announced that it was aiming to bringing the 800-megawatt plant back online, state leaders were on board. The company plans to add a pair of small modular reactors to the existing plant, bringing its capacity to 1,400 megawatts — enough to power more than a million homes. Holtec did not respond to interview requests, but company spokesperson Nick Culp told Reuters the company expects the plant to have full power operation by the end of 2025.

The $150 million in last year’s Michigan state budget to support the plant’s restart will help pay for fuel purchases and infrastructure upgrades, Cook said. Whitmer has requested an additional $150 million in this year’s budget to help bring Palisades online.

“This is really an all-hands-on-deck approach,” said Cook, citing the hundreds of union jobs that could return to the region if the plant reopens. She said the state funding was critical to show both Holtec and federal officials that there was strong support in Michigan to save Palisades. Holtec has said it could employ about 520 people at the plant.

States’ support

In recent years, many states have provided financial support to struggling nuclear plants, made nuclear eligible for clean energy credits or repealed long-standing bans on the construction of new reactors.

“We’ve seen this incredible uptick of nuclear energy legislation,” said Csizmadia, with the nuclear trade association.

Huff, the federal official, noted that several of the states that recently repealed bans on new nuclear power have many coal-dependent communities that could be “left behind” if their coal plants retire. Backers of nuclear, especially the emerging small modular reactor technology, believe old coal plants could be revived to put existing infrastructure to use in service of nuclear power and bring back high-wage jobs.

Nuclear electricity production across the country has been relatively stagnant for two decades, with plants struggling to compete with lower-cost options such as natural gas. Construction of new reactors has almost completely stopped amid regulatory hurdles and spiking project costs.

Opponents of nuclear point to the canceled projects, delays and cost overruns as proof that nuclear isn’t viable.

“This is just throwing good money after bad,” said Kamps, the anti-nuclear advocate. “We stand horrified at the actions being taken by Congress and certain state governments.”

Kamps also cited previous nuclear disasters and warned of the risks of extending aging plants.

But as states look to clean up their energy grids, some leaders say they can’t afford to lose their nuclear power.

“A lot of people believe we can power California with renewables alone and batteries,” said Carl Wurtz, executive director of Fission Transition, a pro-nuclear advocacy group. “We’re going to be tied to natural gas indefinitely if we try to do it that way.”

Wurtz was among the advocates who pushed California to extend the life of PG&E’s Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, which had been scheduled to close in 2025. He and others argued that the loss of the plant’s 2,240 megawatts — 9% of California’s electricity — would force the state to import more power generated from fossil fuels.

As with the Michigan plant, state leaders in California, including Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, successfully lobbied the feds for money to keep Diablo Canyon open. Last month, the Department of Energy finalized a $1.1 billion payout to extend the plant’s operations. That followed a vote from state regulators to push the plant’s shutdown date back to 2030.

Supporters of nuclear say it’s a necessary complement to wind and solar because of the reliability it provides.

“We need baseload power that runs 24/7,” said Lisa Marshall, vice president of the American Nuclear Society and assistant extension professor with the North Carolina State University Department of Nuclear Engineering. “If we’re going to make [carbon-free electricity] happen, nuclear has to be part of that mix.”

The California plant is still awaiting the renewal of its license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. PG&E did not respond to an interview request.

France's EDF shuts down two nuclear reactors after fire at Chinon plant
Nuclear energy operator EDF has shut down two reactors at Chinon in western France after a fire in a non-nuclear sector of the plant in the early hours of Saturday, the company said.

The 100 Year Canister Life Act aims to double nuclear waste storage lifespan to 100 years, ensuring safety and security for communities.



Document Title:
Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station - Late LLRW Shipment Investigation Report Pursuant to 10 CFR 20, Appendix G
Document Type:
Document Date:


Beyond Nuclear Bulletin
February 1, 2024

$5 Million Fine, Oral Arguments on CISF

New Jersey's Attorney General announceda $5 million fine, and three years of probationary supervision, for Holtec, after its latest series of lies to the NJ Economic Development Authority (NJEDA). As reported by NJ Spotlight News, Holtec sought twice the tax break for which it was eligible, and after the deadline, backdating documents. In 2019, the story broke that Holtec provided false answers on its application for $260 million in tax breaks. Also, its fired Chief Financial Officer continues his whistleblower lawsuit, alleging Holtec concealed $750 million in projected losses at its consolidated interim storage facility in New Mexico. Federal appeals against this CISF have been scheduled for oral argument on March 5 at the District of Columbia Circuit Court.

Read More

CND sees imminent deployment

The longtime UK anti-nuclear group, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) has responded to compelling evidence that US nuclear weapons are about to return to UK soil. Files show construction plans for guard shacks at the US air base at Lakenheath in Suffolk, designed for ballistic protection. An earlier US Air Force report outlined plans for a dormitory to house the additional personnel needed to handle nuclear weapons at the base. The latest US capable jet fighter, the F-35A, is already at Lakenheath, designed to drop the B61-12 guided nuclear bomb. 110 US free-fall B61 nuclear bombs were removed from Lakenheath in 2008, following sustained protest. The return of US nuclear weapons to Britain makes the country a nuclear target, says CND.

Read More

$1.5 Billion for Palisades Restart
Bloomberg broke the story that the U.S. Department of Energy's Loan Programs Office is poised to award Holtec a loan guarantee for $1.5 billion, for the unprecedented, extremely high-risk restart of Michigan...
Happy Groundhogs Day!
Not surprisingly, Vogtle Unit 4 in GA is delayed...yet again. Several links below w/the Bloomberg/E&E/EnergyWire pasted below.
AJC's coverage was longer, more in depth.
AP picked up widely:
Sara Barczak, 912-201-0354

Vogtle nuclear project is delayed again

BY BLOOMBERG | 02/02/2024 06:52 AM EST

ENERGYWIRE | Southern expects its long-delayed Vogtle nuclear project in Georgia to be pushed back again.

The Unit 4 reactor is expected to go into service in the second quarter, according to a filing Thursday. In November, the company said it would be done in the first quarter.

Southern said the delay stems from vibration issues with pipes in the cooling system that have to be resolved. The delay isn’t expected to add to total costs for the project, but Southern said it could be a drag on profit. If the plant doesn’t go into service by March 31, it would negatively impact earnings by “approximately $30 million per month until the month following the date commercial operation for Unit 4 is achieved,” according to the filing.

The Vogtle project to add two reactors to the facility is nearing completion, but it’s years behind schedule and costs have more than doubled to over $30 billion. Unit 3 went into service in July.

The intensifying threat of climate change is boosting the value of nuclear energy, and there’s a realization that the expensive, long-delayed Vogtle project could play an important role in US efforts to curb emissions.

Biden admin poised to aid nuclear plant with massive loan

By Brian Dabbs
01/31/2024 01:29 PM EST

The owner of a shuttered nuclear plant in Michigan is signaling a massive loan could come soon from the Department of
Energy, a move that would mark the latest attempt by the Biden administration to bolster the struggling nuclear sector in the

Holtec International — the owner of the Palisades nuclear plant southwest of Grand Rapids — is “hopeful” it will “hear a
favorable decision in the near future” on the DOE loan, a spokesperson for the company, Nick Culp, told E&E News on

“We are very optimistic about the federal loan process and confident in the strength of our application,” Culp said. “The
unified effort to bring Palisades back online will return 800 megawatts of safe, reliable and carbon-free baseload generation
back to our electric grid — ensuring Michigan and the country meet climate goals while boosting around-the-clock reliability
for families and businesses.”

On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that Holtec is poised to get a $1.5 billion loan to reopen the shuttered plant on the shores of
Lake Michigan from the DOE Loan Programs Office (LPO), an arm of the department with hundreds of billions of dollars in
authority. A spokesperson for the LPO declined to comment.

The potential loan comes in the wake of a for the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant in California.$1.1 billion DOE bailout
The bailout program, authorized in the bipartisan infrastructure law of 2021, is designed to provide grants to unprofitable
nuclear plants. A recent round of bailout offerings . Many energy experts expected Holtec to apply for theyielded no takers

Speaking to E&E News last week, CEO Kris Singh said the Palisades plant is a boon to U.S. clean energy.

“Right now, clean energy is in short supply. Companies want to switch. The consumers want to switch,” he said in an
interview. “The state government, local community, the Department of Energy, and finally the [Nuclear Regulatory Commission],
which has the last word, in our meetings have not shown any reluctance to restart the plant, if we are able to show to them that all
the safety metrics are preserved.”

Nuclear critics say the plant is a threat to the local community.

"The problem with a DOE loan guarantee, at least for taxpayers, is that it is interest-free, and risk-free. Holtec need not pay it
back, leaving taxpayers holding the bag,” Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste specialist at Beyond Nuclear, said in an email.

“But the extreme risks to health, safety, security, and the environment of restarting this severely age-degraded zombie reactor
could prove much more costly to those living downwind, downstream, up the food chain, and down the generations."

The LPO has more than $400 billion in lending authority after a. Among its morebig injection in the Inflation Reduction Act
controversial loans, the office is lending $3 billion to Sunnova Energy for a . Nationwide virtual power plant project
month, DOE also extended a loan to LongPath Technologies for that company's efforts to monitor methane emissions at
production sites in the U.S. West

Republicans on Capitol Hill have repeatedly targeted the LPO. Last week, House Republicans LPO threatened to subpoena
Director Jigar Shah.

Nuclear energy, which does not directly produce planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions, currently provides about a tenth
of global electricity. The fuel provided on the grid in 2022.18 percent of U.S. electricity

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is currently to boost next-generation nuclear production. collaborating to advance legislation
On Tuesday, Holtec as part of a criminal investigation into state tax credits the agreed to pay New Jersey $5 million
sought in 2018.

Reporter Zachary Bright contributed.