TMI Update: Jan 14, 2024

Did you catch "The Meltdown: Three Mile Island" on Netflix?
TMI remains a danger and TMIA is working hard to ensure the safety of our communities and the surrounding areas.
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The Palisades Nuclear Plant won a $1.5B conditional federal loan to reopen. Plant owner Holtec plans to move fast — but the path ahead is murky.

By Eric Wesoff | 

A large nuclear facility at twilightThe Palisades nuclear power plant on Lake Michigan (Holtec)

Holtec, a manufacturer of nuclear reactor equipment, has an unprecedented plan to restart the shuttered Palisades Nuclear Plant in Michigan. Thanks to a conditional loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office, that plan is now $1.52 billion closer to reality.

If the loan is granted (subject to Holtec meeting closing conditions) and the 800-megawatt reactor located on Lake Michigan is repowered, it would be the first nuclear plant in the U.S. to reopen after being closed for decommissioning. Surprisingly, it would be just the second or third reactor to restart in the history of global civil nuclear power, according to Mycle Schneider, lead author of the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2023, in an interview with Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Nuclear energy supplies just under 20 percent of U.S. electricity, a share that has barely budged in recent decades as the country has struggled to build the few new reactors that have been proposed. The average age of the reactors in the country’s 93-unit fleet is 42 years old.

As the country pushes to decarbonize its power grid, nuclear advocates are urging the U.S. to reinvest in the energy source, despite its baggage around cost and timing overruns and environmental concerns. Repowering Palisades would represent serious progress for nuclear energy in the U.S., but it won’t be an easy path ahead.

Holtec purchased Palisades a month after it shut down with plans to mothball the site, but plans changed. Now the firm, which specializes in nuclear waste management and decommissioning (as opposed to rebuilding and operating nuclear plants), intends to revive the plant instead. Holtec plans to get the power plant restarted by the end of 2025, a breathtakingly aspirational target given nuclear’s history of missing construction and cost targets.

The Palisades plant was closed by utility Entergy in May 2022 due to financial issues after operating for more than a half-century. And while the plant had a strong operational performance record in recent years, it also has a sobering history of shutdowns due to failures of critical equipment, as well as broken fuel rods and fuel-spill incidents. The site was shut down for the final time a few days ahead of schedule due to concerns about the reliability of a key piece of equipment.

When it was operating at its peak, the plant provided more than 600 high-paying jobs, many unionized. If restarted, the plant could drive up to $363 million in regional economic impact, according to Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat. That’s why Whitmer and a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers back resurrecting the retired reactor. Local business owners and residents are ​“largely supportive” of the plan as well, according to local news site MLive. The state’s 2024 budget devotes $150 million to the project.

Like the nearly-shuttered Diablo Canyon plant in central California, Palisades will require extensive testing and repairs to compensate for deferred regulatory compliance and upkeep. Additionally, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has never considered reauthorizing a license for a shuttered plant. While the regulators are familiar with the reactor design, the unfamiliar nature of a reactor restart muddies the water on timing and cost. Holtec will also have to seek out and finalize contracts for fuel and refueling services.

If Holtec successfully repowers Palisades, it will be able to garner federal incentives such as a production tax credit geared to help keep the current nuclear fleet competitive, as well as an investment tax credit intended to speed new-plant construction. Holtec has also applied to the U.S. Civil Nuclear Credit Program, which has now extended its eligibility to include recently closed plants.

These are heady days for the U.S. nuclear industry: The government and the DOE are solid supporters of commercial nuclear power, providing incentives to build advanced reactors, enrich fuel and keep existing plants open. Citizen sentiment about nuclear power is more positive than it’s been in years. And more than 20 nations, including the U.S., pledged to triple installed nuclear power by 2050 during last year’s COP28 climate conference.

Despite that, the path to adding more nuclear power to the U.S. grid is as murky as ever. The country’s most promising new nuclear project, NuScale’s planned deployment of a small modular reactor in Idaho, fell apart late last year, and there’s no obvious next-best contender in the pipeline.

If successful, the Palisades restart could provide the American nuclear renaissance with a much-needed win — even if that means rousing an old reactor from its nap rather than starting up a shiny new one.


Nuclear industry critics take aim at liability cap extension

BY RACHEL FRAZIN - 03/28/24 6:00 AM ET


A smokestack with money on top of the image with a gavel on top of a stack of papers.Illustration / Samantha Wong; and Adobe Stock

Critics are warning that the recent government funding bill’s newly extended nuclear power liability cap could impact safety and prevent survivors from getting adequate compensation in the case of an accident. 

Congress’s 40-year extension of a law limiting how much money nuclear power companies are on the hook for prompted sighs of relief from the industry and supporters of the measure, who say the liability limit provides certainty for insurers and investors in the carbon-free power source.

But opponents of the extension fear it will disincentivize the industry from prioritizing the safety of nearby communities and hurt potential victims’ ability to secure adequate recompense if an accident were to occur.

Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear power safety with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said there are “very few actual mechanisms driving innovation to actually decrease risk to the public.”

He said removing the cap “would provide a strong incentive for reactor developers to truly put in features that would clearly reduce the risk of accidents.”

Thus far, concerns have been hypothetical, as the U.S. has not seen a nuclear accident whose damages have exceeded the law’s liability limits since it was first passed in 1957. 

“There have not been any commercial accidents or incidents with the U.S. fleet that have had public health consequences,” said Craig Piercy, executive director and chief executive officer of the American Nuclear Society. “I put its safety record up against any other technology that generates electrons.”

The Three Mile Island nuclear accident in 1979 in Pennsylvania is described by the Energy Department as having no direct health effects. But there are some studies that say there are increased cancer rates

But, critics say it only takes one incident. 

“I don’t think it’s likely … but it could happen,” said Victor Gilinsky, former commissioner with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a government nuclear safety board.

“We … have about 20, 25 reactors that are identical to the Fukushima reactors,” he added, referring to the site of a major 2011 nuclear accident in Japan following an earthquake and tsunami. “They’re the same design.”

The cap came about in the 1950s under the Price-Anderson Act, which sought to catalyze the nation’s nuclear power industry. 

The law requires nuclear power plants to have liability insurance to cover costs of up to $500 million. In the case of an accident, all of the country’s major nuclear plants — regardless of whether they were involved — would have to pay into an additional fund to compensate victims. 

In total, the maximum compensation from the fund and the insurance could be $16.1 billion, according to a nonpartisan Congressional Research Service report from January. 

Proponents of this approach say that it both helps the nuclear power industry stay viable and ensures the immediate availability of some compensation for survivors. They also note that it makes economical sense for insuring and investing in nuclear by providing certainty about the risk — thereby also making electricity cheaper for consumers.

“If all of a sudden Price-Anderson was taken away, it would mean much more expensive electricity [and] more carbon emissions down the line. It just would have been a bad thing for the U.S. [and] the world,” said Piercy.

He also said the law has provided a “a base level of protection” so that companies not only are willing to invest in nuclear but also to develop new nuclear technology. 

But, opponents say that in the case of a severe disaster, the maximum compensation would likely not be enough to cover the costs.

Lyman pointed to the cost of the Fukushima accident, which Japan has said could reach around $200 billion

“So if the scale of a nuclear disaster in the U.S. is anywhere near that order, there’s going to be a shortfall [of] at least tens, or even hundreds of billions of dollars,” he said.

The cap extension is not the only action Congress is eyeing to boost nuclear power. Recently, it provided up to $2.72 billion to bolster nuclear energy in another funding package. And, bipartisan and bicameral lawmakers are working on an additional nuclear package that they hope to advance in the months ahead.

“The extension of the Price-Anderson Act in the minibus sends a clear message that we are committed to the advancement of this safe and reliable power source, but this is only the first step,” Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) said in a written statement. 

“We must send bipartisan legislation to boost the development and deployment of new nuclear technologies to the president’s desk this year, and we are united in our commitment” to do so, the statement said.

RadWaste Monitor Vol. 17 No. 12
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RadWaste Monitor
Article 3 Of 8
 March 22, 2024
Fifth Circuit will not give NRC another chance to prove commercial interim storage is legal
By Dan Leone
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will have to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if it wants another chance to prove that it can legally license commercial interim storage of spent nuclear fuel.

According to an order dated March 14, judges of the Fifth Circuit voted 9-7, with one recused, not to rehear the NRC’s argument that the Atomic Energy Act authorizes the commission to license interim storage of spent fuel away from the reactors that generated it.
“We continue to adhere to our position that the judiciary has not only the authority but the duty to review the NRC’s actions, which may threaten significant environmental damage in the Permian Basin, one of the largest fossil fuel deposits in the world,” the court wrote in its opinion.
In August, as part of a lawsuit filed by the state of Texas, a panel of three Fifth Circuit judges ruled that the Atomic Energy Act did not give NRC this authority, effectively striking down a license the NRC granted to a joint venture of Waste Control Specialists and Orano to store spent fuel in Andrews County, Texas.
The Fifth Circuit’s ruling last year also killed a similar commercial interim storage license the NRC gave to Holtec International for a proposed facility in eastern New Mexico.
Three Fifth Circuit judges disagreed with the majority’s opinion last week, writing among other things that the court’s ruling will allow people to evade regulatory agencies using maneuvers with no basis in federal law.
“This exercise of jurisdiction has grave consequences for regulated entities’ settled expectations and careful investments in costly, time consuming agency proceedings, inviting spoilers to sidestep the avenues for participation that Congress carefully created to prevent this uncertainty,” the three dissenting judges wrote.
Among other things, NRC argued that Texas never participated in the commission’s debate about licensing the Andrews County facility and that therefore the state had no right to sue over the commission’s final licensing decision.
Meanwhile, the NRC continues to argue in a separate but related case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that the Atomic Energy Act allows the agency to license commercial interim storage of spent fuel.
Community solar facility bill passes state house 
Stacy Wescoe//March 29, 2024//  
A bill that would make it easier for homeowners in Pennsylvania to save money with solar technology has been passed by the State House of Representatives. 
The legislation, which was introduced by Rep. Peter Schweyer, D-Lehigh, would create a community solar program. 
Power customers would be allowed to subscribe to a portion of a community solar facility with guaranteed savings; allow for the creation, financing, accessibility and operation of community solar generating facilities; encourage development of community solar programs and encourage participation in programs which will benefit low to moderate income customers and their communities. 
“This bill is a win-win-win for Pennsylvanians as it would open access to renewable energy, ease the amount of energy output on the grid, help protect the environment and bring in thousands of good paying jobs to the commonwealth,” said Schweyer, D-Lehigh. “This would benefit the thousands of people, who like me, live in homes that do not have the space to support solar panels on their property.” 
A community solar facility would be run by a nonprofit such as Solar United Neighbors (SUN), which is a national nonprofit organization that arranges solar co-ops for group purchase of home solar panel installations 
 “We are thrilled to see HB 1842 moving forward swiftly with bipartisan support,” said Monica Carey, Pennsylvania program director for SUN. “This bill will make solar energy more accessible and affordable for people throughout Pennsylvania. It promotes energy equity and ensures the benefits of community solar reach low-and-moderate income subscribers. The added benefits of HB 1842 include job creation for Pennsylvania workers and diversification of our energy sources in the process.”  
 House Bill 1842 now heads to the Senate for consideration 
“We now urge the Senate to continue this momentum so we can finally give Pennsylvanians the ability to choose what’s right for them when it comes to their electricity,” Carey said. “SUN’s 22,500 members in Pennsylvania, along with others across the commonwealth, are eager to experience the money-saving, clean energy benefits of community solar.” 
Documents in Web-based ADAMS: 
   - Three Mile Island Nuclear Station, Unit 1 – Exemption from Select Requirements of 10 CFR Part 73 (EPID L-2023-LLE-0061 [Security Notifications, Reports, and Recordkeeping and Suspicious Activity Reporting]) (ML24052A060)
To access document(s) please search by accession number using the following link:
No: 24-013 February 20, 2024
CONTACT: David McIntyre, 301-415-8200
NRC Proposes to Amend Licensing, Inspection, and Annual Fees for Fiscal Year 2024
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is seeking public comment on proposed changes to
the licensing, inspection, special projects, and annual fees it will charge applicants and licensees
for fiscal year 2024.
The proposed fee rule, published today in the Federal Register, is based on the FY 2024
Congressional Budget Justification as a full-year appropriation has not yet been enacted. The
final rule will be based on the NRC’s actual appropriation, and the agency will update the final
fee schedule as appropriate. The NRC’s proposed FY 2024 budget is approximately $1.01
billion. The agency would use $27.1 million in carryover funds, making the total budget
authority used in the FY 2024 proposed fee rule $979.2 million, an increase of $52.1 million
from FY 2023.
Under the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act, the NRC is required to
recover approximately 100 percent of its total budget authority in FY 2024, except funds for
specific excluded activities.
After accounting for the exclusions from the fee recovery requirement and net billing
adjustments, the NRC must recover approximately $825.7 million in fees in FY 2024. Of this
amount, the NRC estimates that $205.5 million will be recovered through service fees under 10
CFR Part 170 and $620.2 million through annual fees under 10 CFR Part 171.
Compared to FY 2023, the proposed annual fees would decrease for the operating power
reactors fee class. This fee does not exceed the cap established by NEIMA. The proposed annual
fees would increase for fuel facilities, spent fuel storage/reactor decommissioning activities, non-
power production or utilization facilities, transportation activities for the U.S. Department of
Energy, the non-DOE uranium recovery licensee, the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control
Act Program, and all materials users fee categories.
The proposed fee rule includes several other changes affecting licensees and applicants.
The NRC proposes to increase the hourly rate for services from $300 to $321 for FY 2024, and
license application fees would be adjusted accordingly. In addition, the proposed rule would
amend NRC’s payment methods to align with the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s “No-Cash
No-Check” policy, to remove paper forms of payment and provide that payments be made
electronically using the methods accepted at
The proposed rule includes detailed instructions on how to submit written comments.
Comments will be accepted through March 21.