Sunday 26 March 2023

Coalition warns against using taxpayer dollars to restart dangerous nuclear power plant in Michigan

  A coalition of concerned groups representing thousands of people on Wednesday, March 22, implored the federal government to not fund the revival of the Palisades Nuclear Generating Station in Van Buren County, southwestern Michigan.

The administration of President Joe Biden has pledged $1.2 billion to keep nuclear reactors in the United States online. Biden’s environment team claims nuclear power, as a powerful source of clean and renewable energy, is important to preserve and even expand upon as the country attempts to reach the goal of producing 100 percent of its energy needs from clean sources by 2035.

Some of this money could go to supporting the reopening of the Palisades nuclear plant, which shut down in May last year. But the plant’s owner, Holtec International, had its first attempt to apply for federal funding to reopen the plant rejected back in November.

With the urging of the state’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Holtec is interested in reapplying. Not only that, the company is also applying for different sources of funding, including from the Department of Energy‘s Loan Programs Office.

The Palisades plant’s decommissioning was first announced in 2017, and it ceased producing power on May 20, 2022, slightly ahead of schedule. Holtec still employs around 220 people at Palisades, focused on hazard reductions at the plant. Since the dismantling of the plant hasn’t started yet, the company said it could restart operations relatively quickly.  

Holtec asking government for nearly $9 billion to restart Palisades plant

In a letter to the Energy Department, a coalition of 107 organizations that represent thousands of people, along with 191 concerned individuals, urged the Biden administration to reject Holtec’s second plea for financial aid.

The group warned that, if the Palisades plant were to reopen, it could lead to a massive public health and environmental disaster that could contaminate Lake Michigan, a source of drinking water for millions of Americans in multiple states.

The coalition pointed out that the Palisades plant is unable to operate safely “due to a litany of chronic and acute problems” associated with the fact that the plant is over 50 years old and its current and previous owners have “neglected maintenance on safety-significant systems, structures and components.”

The coalition further argued that, since Palisades is not a currently operating nuclear power plant, it fails to qualify for any of the Biden administration’s grant programs.

“The legislative intention was to offer life support to reactors that were struggling to hang on, not those which, for a complex of reasons that may include economic considerations, have lost the race,” wrote the groups. “Please curtail all consideration of a bailout for Holtec’s Palisades Nuclear Plant … and deny certification for the plant to receive subsidies. Thank you.”

“Over my dead body are you all going to get away with this,” said Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear and Won’t Waste Michigan. Kamps pointed out that Holtec is asking the government for nearly $9 billion in grants and subsidies.

“This … ratepayer and taxpayer robbery would merely fund an insanely high-risk game of radioactive Russian roulette on the Lake Michigan shoreline,” warned Kamps.

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