Palisades Power Plant was shut down permanently by Entergy on May 20, 2022, after providing safe and reliable electricity to southwest Michigan for more than 50 years. In June of 2022, Palisades was purchased by Holtec International for purposes of a safe and timely decommissioning of the site. The purchase of Palisades also included the decommissioned Big Rock Point site near Charlevoix, Michigan, where an independent spent fuel storage installation remains. The deal enables decommissioning and site release for alternate uses decades sooner than previously anticipated. As Palisades enters into this new chapter, its commitment to the safety of its employees, community, and environment remains unchanged.
Palisades Nuclear Training Manager, Walter Nelson, and Holtec Government Affairs and Communications Senior Manager, Pat O’Brien, talk about the decommissioning process of the Palisades Power Plant in Covert, Michigan on Tuesday, May 24, 2022.
Our Goals for Decommissioning Palisades
Achieving excellence in the health and safety of personnel
Protecting the environment now and for future generations
Ensuring a safe, respectful and equal opportunity workplace
Demanding the highest level of individual and corporate integrity
Continually improving upon our robust quality assurance program
Employing financially sustainable business practices
Maintaining transparent and ongoing communication with stakeholders
Fulfilling our promise to be a trusted steward of legacy nuclear materials
Decommissioning Nuclear Power Plants
Decommissioning is the process by which nuclear power plants are safely retired from service. The progression involves decontaminating the facility to reduce residual radioactivity, dismantling the structures, removing contaminated materials to appropriate disposal facilities and releasing the property for other uses. The owner remains accountable to the NRC until decommissioning has been completed and the agency has terminated its license.
Here’s a brief look at what will occur at Palisades:
- Palisades was removed from service for the final time on Friday, May 20, 2022 at 3:57 p.m. ET. Site immediately commenced defueling outage.
- The Palisades fuel was completely removed from the reactor vessel and placed in the spent fuel pool to cool.
- Once cooled, the fuel will be placed in stainless steel canisters and transported to the secured Independent Spent Fuel Storage Facility (ISFSI) on station property.
- Radioactive equipment and components are dismantled per an approved decommissioning plan.
- Contaminated components are dismantled, securely packaged and transported to a licensed off-site facility.
- The site is inspected by state and federal agencies to ensure the property has been returned to conditions outlined in the decommissioning plans. Both state and federal agencies will continue to monitor the site.
Our Decommissioning Team:
After Palisades Power Plant ceased operations, many of the operations employees transferred into a decommissioning organization. Throughout the decommissioning lifecycle, many of the same employees will assist in the safe dismantlement of Palisades Power Plant. Here’s a look at what we will be doing.
Protecting the facility and the public:
A security force will safeguard the facility until all nuclear fuel has been removed from the site.
Engineers, technicians & craftworkers:
A highly qualified, skilled staff of experts will oversee and conduct the entire dismantlement process.
Using company employees and contracted experts, we will continue a strong environmental monitoring program through decommissioning.
Teams of qualified employees, both on and off-site, will be on-call all day, every day to work to protect the plant and the public in an unlikely emergency situation.
Overview of Decommissioning Process
- To decommission a nuclear power plant, the licensee must submit A Post‐Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report (PSDAR) to the NRC. This report provides a description of the planned decommissioning activities, a schedule for accomplishing them, and an estimate of the expected costs.
- The licensee has to reduce the residual radioactivity to levels that permit release of the property and termination of the facility’s operating license. The site must be decommissioned within 60 years of the plant ceasing operations.
- The decommissioning process involves removing the used nuclear fuel from the reactor; dismantling systems or components containing radioactive products (e.g. the reactor vessel); and cleaning up or dismantling contaminated materials from the facility.
- Contaminated materials can be disposed of in two ways: decontaminated on site or removed and shipped to a waste processing, storage or disposal facility.
(Companies can choose one or both options)
- SAFSTOR (Safe Storage) ‐ Plant is kept intact, all fuel is placed in spent fuel pool or dry storage casks and time is used as a decontaminating agent. Plant is then dismantled similar to DECON once radioactivity has decayed to lower levels.
- DECON (Decontamination) ‐ Contaminated equipment and materials are removed (used nuclear fuel rods and equipment account for over 99 percent of the plant’s radioactivity). Plant is then dismantled ‐ this phase can take five years or longer.
Terminating the NRC License, Releasing the Site
As the DECON phase nears completion, the company must submit a license termination plan to the NRC. This needs to occur within two years of the proposed license termination date. After the NRC receives the license termination plan, affected states, local communities and tribes may submit comments on the plan at a public meeting near the facility. The public also has the opportunity to request an adjudicatory hearing. Members of the public may observe any meeting the NRC holds with the company, unless the discussion involves proprietary, sensitive, safeguarded or classified information.
Once public concerns are addressed, the NRC will terminate the license if all work has followed the approved license termination plan and the final radiation survey shows that the site is suitable for release. Most plans envision releasing the site to the public for unrestricted use, meaning any residual radiation would be below NRC’s limits of 25 millirem per year. This completes the decommissioning process.
As stated in the Palisades Post-Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report (PSDAR), Holtec plans to decommission Palisades (with the exception of the Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation) within 19 years of the plant’s 2022 shutdown. That projection is more than four decades sooner than the full 60 years allowed by the federal government for decommissioning. The decommissioning of Palisades adheres to both federal and state cleanup standards and is conducted under the watchful oversight of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
Part of decommissioning is moving the spent nuclear fuel from storage in the spent fuel pool to the dry storage facility called an Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (or ISFSI), which used to take five or more years after reactor shutdown. Holtec has dry storage systems that allow the transfer to be safely completed in less than three years. The rest of the decommissioning activities can be safely started sooner and be performed more efficiently with the spent nuclear fuel on the ISFSI.
Decommissioning begins with the permanent removal of the plant from service, which occurred at Palisades on May 20, 2022. Experienced Palisades employees then removed all fuel from the reactor and placed it into the spent fuel pool. Defueling the Palisades reactor was completed on June 10, 2022.
As stated in the Palisades Post-Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report (PSDAR), Holtec plans to move the spent fuel from the Palisades spent fuel pool to dry cask storage from 2022 through 2025. The fuel will be secured and monitored on an Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI), where it shall remain until such time that an interim or permanent spent fuel facility is made available by the federal government.
Holtec then plans to pause major decommissioning work for about ten years after the spent fuel is transferred to the ISFSI. Other decommissioning activities include removal of contaminated systems and components, demolition of buildings, and completion of site restoration. The projected date to complete decommissioning at Palisades is 2041.
The health and safety of our employees, the public, and the environment is our top priority. The Palisades Phase I decommissioning organization is staffed with former Palisades employees – the same nuclear professionals who operated Palisades in the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) highest safety category. Palisades uses sophisticated technology to monitor all aspects of the environment in and around the plant, including air quality, soil, and water. The facility is equipped with multiple layers of backup safety equipment.
The NRC will continue to provide independent federal oversight throughout the decommissioning process.
Holtec will explore all options for the safe and efficient removal of materials from the site. Once transportation decisions are finalized this will be shared with the local community. All spent fuel will remain safe and secure on site until such time that an interim or permanent spent fuel facility is made available by the federal government.
To learn more about Palisades decommissioning, visit www.palisadesdecom.com.
Once all fuel has been transferred from the spent fuel pool to the Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation, an estimated 69 casks will be used to store Palisades’s spent nuclear fuel. All spent fuel will remain safe and secure on site until such time that an interim or permanent spent fuel facility is made available by the federal government.
The federal government has the obligation to take receipt of used fuel located at nuclear stations across the country. At this time, there is no clear timeline for that action. Holtec has submitted its license application to build a consolidated interim storage facility for spent fuel called HI-STORE in New Mexico. Palisades’s used fuel could be relocated to this facility.
Safety and security remain our top priority at Palisades. In June 2022, Palisades moved from the Site Emergency Plan of an operational plant to the current Post Shutdown Emergency Plan (PSEP), which reflects the plant’s permanent cessation of operations and the removal of all fuel from the reactor. Pending regulatory approval, the Palisades emergency planning zone (EPZ) will be reduced to the site boundary upon the future implementation of the site’s Permanently Defueled Emergency Plan (PDEP). This allowance is determined based on careful review and consideration of scientific data related to the risks associated with a potential issue with the spent fuel pool. With the reactor no longer in operation, and the multiple defense-in-depth options to maintain adequate level in the spent fuel pool, the scientific basis for the reduction is warranted. These changes are consistent with other decommissioning plants and must be approved by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Holtec will continue to work closely with its federal, state, and local emergency response partners.
Palisades remains committed to keeping its neighbors and stakeholders well informed of significant activities. The Palisades Community Advisory Panel (PCAP) among many other federal, state, tribal, and local stakeholder groups routinely receive updates on the project. Past PCAP meetings and information can be found here.
Every plant owner has two years from the date that a reactor permanently ceases operations to submit its Post-Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report (PSDAR) and site-specific Decommissioning Cost Estimate (DCE) to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The Palisades PSDAR and DCE were submitted to the NRC by Holtec as a supplement to the Palisades License Transfer Application. Those submittals will be formally docketed shortly after close of the Palisades transaction and license transfer from Entergy to Holtec.
HDI is Licensed Operator for Palisades
Holtec Decommissioning International (HDI) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Holtec International headquartered at the Krishna P. Singh Technology Campus, Camden, NJ. HDI functions as the licensed operator for Holtec owned nuclear power plants. HDI provides the licensee oversight of the decommissioning work that is performed.