Two generation cooperatives serving members in Michigan, Indiana and southeastern Illinois plan to meet future demand for electricity with the restart of a nuclear power plant that suspended operations last year.
The Palisades Nuclear Power Plant, located on the southeastern shore of Lake Michigan, could become the country’s first utility-scale nuclear plant recommissioned to help meet demand for zero-emission electricity.
“The restart of Palisades offers a practical, long-term solution to electric reliability in our state and aligns with Michigan’s ambitious goals to reduce carbon emissions,” said Eric Baker, CEO of Wolverine Power.
The Cadillac, Michigan-based G&T and Hoosier Energy, headquartered in Bloomington, Indiana, have contracted with Holtec International for the total output from the 800-megawatt plant. Investor owners of the plant are seeking financing and regulatory approval to refuel and recommission the plant with a goal of resuming its operations by late 2025.
“The Palisades Nuclear Power Plant power purchase agreement is an ideal fit for Hoosier Energy’s long-range resource plan priorities,” said Donna Walker, Hoosier Energy’s president and CEO.
Walker added that the agreement with Holtec will provide several benefits to distribution co-op members, including baseload reliability and resource adequacy. It will also help both G&Ts diversify their generation portfolios, stabilize rates and predict future costs with an environmentally sustainable power source.
Restoration of the plant’s operations will also add more than 600 high-paying jobs to the southwestern Michigan economy.
“The repowering of Palisades ensures Michigan has sufficient energy to meet future demand and mitigate the impact of climate change,” said Kelly Trice, president of Holtec Nuclear Generation and Decommissioning.
Holtec, based in Jupiter, Florida, maintains and services more than 100 nuclear power plants worldwide. The company also provides heat exchangers and other components essential to power plant operations, and before purchasing Palisades last year, began managing its decommissioning when power production was suspended in May 2022.
Once plant acquisition was completed last December, Holtec began working toward a restart, and the power purchase agreements are a significant milestone toward reopening the plant.
Trice has cited the benefits of local tax base expansion and potential regional economic growth as benefits of recommissioning in presentations to state elected officials. Holtec has also held several public meetings to keep local consumers informed of the plans to restart the plant.
Construction of the 432-acre Palisades site began in 1967 and was completed three years later. Between 1970 and 2022, the plant consistently achieved the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s highest safety ratings while producing record-breaking production goals, and it was recognized by the industry for its high performance.
Beyond local permanent jobs, plant operations require an additional 1,000 specialty workers every 18 months for scheduled refueling and maintenance. Its shutdown in 2022 led to the loss of more than 700 jobs and over $200 million in economic activity in three Michigan counties. Overall tax benefits lost since the plant’s closure in Michigan’s Van Buren County are estimated to top $10 million annually.
The power purchase agreements commit Wolverine to take the bulk of the plant’s energy production after its restart, with Hoosier Energy receiving the balance.
“This is a tremendous win for electric cooperatives and demonstrates our ability to collaborate and innovate for our members and the hundreds of thousands of member-consumers we serve,” said Hoosier Energy’s Walker.
Once the plant is recommissioned, 23 distribution co-ops serving more than 1 million homes in 64 Midwestern counties will have access to more reliable and sustainable baseload electricity.
“Palisades plays a vital role in Michigan’s energy landscape, particularly since our state depends on power imports up to 88% of the time,” said Wolverine’s Baker. “In the short term, restarting the plant before impending coal plant retirements is essential to maintaining electric reliability. Looking ahead, Palisades offers one long-term solution to provide price stability, reliability and a path towards decarbonization.”
Derrill Holly is a staff writer for NRECA.