Holtec International and Entergy Corporation, through their affiliates, have jointly submitted a License Transfer Application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) requesting approval to transfer the NRC license for the Palisades Power Plant to Holtec after the facility permanently shuts down in the spring of 2022. The application also requests approval of the license transfer of Entergy’s decommissioned Big Rock Point facility near Charlevoix, Michigan, where only the Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI) remains.

Palisades Power Plant in Covert Township, Michigan

“This key regulatory filing sets in motion a new beginning for Palisades and the local community. At Palisades, we will deploy our proven fleet decommissioning execution model which has dramatically reduced personnel dose and continues to set new records for safety and operational efficacy at Oyster Creek and Pilgrim where we are currently at work,” said Holtec’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Kris Singh.

“Holtec’s plan to safely accelerate the Palisades decommissioning schedule by more than four decades provides the potential for site redevelopment much sooner than if Entergy continued to own the facility after shutdown,” said Chris Bakken, Entergy Executive Vice President Nuclear Operations and Chief Nuclear Officer. “The completion of major decommissioning activities on an accelerated timeframe is important to the local community, which could benefit from economic opportunity at the site.”

The companies have asked the NRC to approve the License Transfer Application by December 2021 to facilitate an organized execution of ownership transition including information technology, cybersecurity, operating procedures and human resources in the period until Palisades ceases operation. Following regulatory approvals and transaction close, Holtec would assume ownership of the site, the Nuclear Decommissioning Trust Fund, real property and used nuclear fuel. It would also assume ownership of the Big Rock Point ISFSI property.

Holtec has also submitted to the NRC, its Post-Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report (PSDAR) and Decommissioning Cost Estimate (DCE), which provide a detailed schedule and cost estimate. 

With Palisades’s shutdown scheduled for May 31, 2022, Holtec and Entergy expect to conclude the transaction by June 30, 2022. Holtec plans to move all the fuel in the plant’s spent fuel pool into dry cask storage at Palisades within three years of shutdown.  Holtec’s overall decommissioning schedule envisages completion of decommissioning 40 years sooner than if Entergy had remained the plant’s owner and implemented SAFSTOR at the site.

As part of the Palisades license transfer, Holtec subsidiary Holtec Decommissioning International (HDI), will be the licensed operator and provide licensee oversight of the decommissioning work and have responsibility for managing the decommissioning trust fund. Comprehensive Decommissioning International (CDI), a joint venture company of Holtec and SNC-Lavalin, is slated to serve as the General Contractor responsible for the whole range of decommissioning activities including demolition and site cleanup.

With the expected close of this transaction, Palisades and Big Rock Point would expand Holtec’s decommissioning fleet to seven reactor units joining Oyster Creek, Pilgrim, and the three reactors at Indian Point Energy Center (IPEC) which is the most recent site to have been approved by the NRC. 

In a joint statement, HDI’s Pam Cowan and CDI’s Kelly Trice, state, “Our ongoing work at Oyster Creek and Pilgrim should assure the local communities that we are honoring our commitments. Our progress and success are attributed to our decommissioning management model implemented by a highly trained and dedicated group of professionals. The result is that our sites have the lowest aggregate personnel dose, highest metrics of environmental protection and a superb record of safety. We expect the NRC to conclude again, as they have done in the past, that Holtec meets the regulatory, legal, technical, and financial requirements necessary to qualify as the successor licensee.” 

Like Big Rock Point, Palisades’s spent nuclear fuel will remain safely stored in dry casks on the ISFSI until the U.S. Government takes possession of it (which they are required to do under a 1982 law) or permits transfer to an alternative location, such as Holtec’s proposed HI-STORE Consolidated Interim Storage Facility (CISF) which is undergoing licensing by the NRC. Final regulatory approval is expected by mid-2021. HI-STORE would provide a supremely safe, secure, retrievable and centralized facility for storing spent nuclear fuel on an interim basis instead of the dispersed storage at multiple nuclear plant sites like Palisades and Big Rock Point.

“HI-STORE is a federal government-inspired solution and can become a fine example of a successful public-private partnership. We look to Congress to enact the necessary legislation to enable us to serve the national purpose,” says Holtec’s executive in charge of HI-STORE, Pierre Oneid, Senior Vice President and Chief Nuclear Officer.