Holtec International said it completed its acquisition of the 800 MW Palisades Power Plant and the Big Rock Point site from Entergy Corp. This asset transfer was made possible by a license transfer approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in December. The sites’ ownership was transferred to Holtec International with Holtec Decommissioning International  serving as the license holder and the prime decommissioning contractor.

Palisades, located in Covert Michigan, shut down in May after more than 50 years in service. The plant had just completed a production run of 577 straight days of operation. 

The sale of the Palisades plant completes what Entergy said was its planned exit from the nuclear merchant power business, and follows the closure and sale of the Vermont Yankee, Pilgrim and Indian Point plants and the sale of the operating James A. Fitzpatrick plant.

Entergy first announced the planned closure of Palisades in 2016 to focus on its utility operations in the Gulf South. Under terms of the sale, Holtec International agreed to hire around 260 current Palisades employees for the first phase of decommissioning. Another 180 employees at Palisades will be let go. Entergy said that more than half of those employees are eligible for retirement.

Big Rock Point, located in Charlevoix Michigan, shut down in 1997 and was decommissioned in the early 2000’s. Only the used fuel remains at the Big Rock Point site. 

The Palisades decommissioning project is intended to have a 19-year timeline, with the projected completion of transfer of fuel from wet to dry storage by 2025. The balance of the dismantling and decommissioning operations is expected to be aligned with ongoing work at Oyster Creek, Pilgrim and Indian Point sites. 

In accordance with NRC rules, decommissioning must be completed within 60 years of the plant ceasing operations. The nuclear site owner (or licensee) may choose from three decommissioning strategies: DECON, SAFSTOR or ENTOMB. Historically, some nuclear plant owners have selected to place the plant in SAFSTOR, an option that allows the nuclear plant to be shuttered for several decades before decommissioning and site restoration is completed.

Completion of Palisades decommissioning expected to make the 400+ acre site fit for commercial/industrial use, except for a parcel of land where the dry storage casks will be stored.  Holtec said it hopes to ship the storage canisters to its proposed consolidated interim storage facility in Southeastern New Mexico, called HI-STORE CISF, which is undergoing the final stage of licensing review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). 

In mid-July, the NRC issued its final environmental review of the project. The review found no environmental reasons that would prevent Holtec from building the multibillion-dollar facility to temporarily store tons of spent nuclear fuel from commercial power plants around the nation. A safety review of the proposed project is still pending by the NRC.

Holtec is now the licensed operator and owner of the Oyster Creek and Pilgrim sites. A license transfer application has been submitted for Entergy’s Indian Point Energy Center.

Part of the decommissioning process involves moving spent nuclear fuel from the spent fuel pool to an onsite dry storage facility called an Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation. Holtec said that while this process used to five or more years after reactor shutdown, its use of dry storage systems allows the transfer to be done in fewer than three years. It said that other decommissioning activities can be started sooner and performed more efficiently.

The Holtec web site said that the financial performance of the decommissioning trust fund is “inextricably tied” to the financial markets. It said that a “sharp and sustained slump” in the market “certainly has the potential” to disrupt the pace of the decommissioning work. It said that funds are managed in an effort to ensure that short-term expenditures are invested in bonds and other more stable financial instruments, to limit any impact from a market downturn.

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