Plans announced to build small modular reactors at Palisades nuclear plant

NOW: Plans announced to build small modular reactors at Palisades nuclear plant

COVERT TOWNSHIP, Mich.-- Nuclear energy is a carbon-free alternative to fossil fuel energy, but it’s a controversial issue due to the hazards of running and maintaining nuclear reactors. This week, the company Holtec International announced plans to build the country’s first small modular reactors (SMRs) at the Palisades plant in Covert Township.

It officially closed its doors in 2022, but Holtec is working to restart the plant, an unprecedented feat, and now plans to expand it with the new SMRs.

“So, our design is a small, pressurized reactor. Very similar to what is deployed in the United States, on a smaller scale,” said Nick Culp, senior manager for government affairs and communication at Holtec. “300 megawatts mean 300,000 households would be powered per unit.”

Holtec is working toward reopening the Palisades plant in 2025, pending approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

Then, they plan to apply for a construction permit for the SMRs in 2026. The target date for that construction would be by 2030, if the NRC gives the green light.

“Plants like Palisades are not only safe, but as we make the transition to a greener economy, having reliable, baseload, carbon-free generation is absolutely essential for keeping the lights on for decades to come,” Culp said.

For companies like Holtec, nuclear energy is the answer to sustainably power communities in an economy that is shifting to green and renewable energy.

“When we’re looking to fill the gaps where renewables are coming into our economy more and more, Palisades and plants like it are a backstop to ensure that we have around-the-clock electricity that you still expect, even if you want to go to a carbon-free economy,” Culp said.

However, groups like Beyond Nuclear are fighting these efforts at the legal and bureaucratic level, while trying to block the subsidies that could be granted to Holtec at Palisades.

Kevin Kamps, a radioactive waste specialist for Beyond Nuclear said the risks to the Great Lakes are just too big to justify nuclear power.

“This proposal is unprecedented, never happened in this country or the world before,” Kamps said. “We’re referring to this as a ‘zombie’ reactor restart, and we hope to stop it, there’s so much at stake.”

Activists are terrified about the risks of nuclear meltdowns and similar disasters, not to mention the compounded risks with the new SMRs.

“Well, I mean Chernobyl and Ukraine in 1986 and Fukushima in Japan in 2011 are some examples of what can happen at nuclear reactors,” Kamps said.

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