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Environmental groups want Dept. of Energy to ensure Palisades is safe before giving it $1 billion

The currently closed Palisades nuclear power plant is located on the shore of Lake Michigan.
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
The currently closed Palisades nuclear power plant is located on the shore of Lake Michigan.

A coalition of environmental groups is asking the Department of Energy (DOE) to make sure the shut-down Palisades nuclear power plant is safe before giving the company that bought it $1 billion.

The previous owner of the Palisades plant, Entergy, had to shut down the plant two weeks earlier than planned because a seal that controlled the atomic reaction was going bad. The plant had years of mechanical problems.

Palisades was commissioned in late 1971. The company that was to decommission it, Holtec International, wants instead to recommission it. That’s unprecedented in the U.S.

Some environmental groups are asking the Department of Energy to do something before it gives Holtec the $1 billion dollars.

“Obey the law, especially in regards to the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires that an Environmental Impact Statement be prepared,” said Kevin Kamps with Beyond Nuclear.

That group along with Don’t Waste Michigan and Michigan Safe Energy Future oppose the DOE’s potential gift and the additional $150 million Michigan has approved contingent upon the federal money.

The groups say that’s the very least DOE can do.

“If the Department of Energy is intending to give one billion dollars or more for this restart scheme, then due diligence has to be done on environmental, health, and safety protection,” said Kamps.

The DOE is not the only federal agency that has a say in the matter. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has to approve the plan to restart Palisades.

Several other Michigan-based environmental groups have expressed opposition to refueling and operating Palisades which sits on the edge of Lake Michigan.

The concern is restarting the troubled nuclear power plant could result in a possible meltdown that could lead to releasing radioactive material into the air and the water, contaminating part of the Great Lakes region.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has urged Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm to approve the federal money. Two electric cooperatives are interested in buying power from the plant. Some civic leaders near the plant site are also in favor of restarting Palisades. It had been a large employer in the area for decades.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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