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Three separate groups must sign off on plan to close Palisades nuclear plant

Mark Savage

This month the state should get some more information about the expected closure of the Palisades nuclear plant near South Haven.

The Michigan Public Service Commission sent a letter to Consumers Energy last month with a laundry list of questions about the planned closure.

Consumers sold the plant to Entergy in 2007. Consumers was supposed to keep buying power from Palisades through at least 2022. Entergy has a license to operate the plant through 2031. Last month the two companies announced a business deal that includes closing the plant in October 2018.

The state wants to know how the closure would affect electric customers and the grid’s reliability. They want to know what alternatives were considered, how it’ll affect air pollution emissions, and how Consumers Energy plans to replace the roughly 800-megawatts Palisades generates. That's enough to power roughly 800,000 homes, they said.

The Michigan Public Service Commission did not assign a timeline for Consumers to provide that information. It did however give the company 30 days to file an updated five-year energy forecast. The plan submitted in 2016 does not include the closure of Palisades, a MPSC spokeswoman said.

Besides the MPSC, two other groups will have to sign off before the plant can close.

Entergy has about a week to officially notify the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission it plans to close. The NRC makes sure a plant is safely shut down and radioactivity on site is reduced to certain levels.

The NRC says it generally costs between $300 million and $400 million to decommission a nuclear plant. At last check, in 2014, Entergy reported the trust fund for Palisadeshad about $384 million.

A third, regional organization has to make sure shutting Palisades down won’t hurt the grid’s reliability. The Midcontinent Independent System Operator, or MISO, is responsible for monitoring and controlling the grid in 15 states and one Canadian province.

Entergy will have to inform MISO of the plan to shut down the plant. Then MISO has less than three months to determine if shutting Palisades down would cause reliability issues.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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