Michigan Governor Seeks to Reopen Nuclear Plant

By: - September 13, 2022 12:00 am

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, is backing a plan to reopen the Palisades Nuclear Plant in Covert Township, calling it an important source of carbon-free electricity and good-paying jobs. Mark Bugnaski/Kalamazoo Gazette via The Associated Press

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s last-minute attempts to save the Palisades Nuclear Plant appeared to have failed when the plant shut down in May. But the Democrat now is backing a new plan to reopen the plant under a different company, pledging state support and asking for federal funds to save the facility.

“We have a path forward to save Palisades, secure 1,700 jobs, and help fight climate change by generating more clean energy,” Whitmer wrote in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, herself a former Michigan governor.

Whitmer’s letter offered state funding and support for a power purchase agreement, aiming to bolster an application for federal money by Holtec International, a New Jersey-based company that purchased the plant in June. Holtec is seeking federal support from the Department of Energy’s Civil Nuclear Credit program. The billion grant program is designed to save plants that are struggling economically but deemed important for their carbon-free power output.

Leaders in several states have given new attention to languishing nuclear plants, as imminent closures threaten state targets to reduce carbon emissions and air pollution. California lawmakers voted earlier this month to approve a .4 billion forgivable loan to extend the life of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has sought to save the plant, which produces nearly 9% of the state’s electricity.

In Michigan, Whitmer said reopening Palisades “will help us produce enough clean, reliable energy in Michigan to power hundreds of thousands of homes and small businesses.” The governor initially asked for a Civil Nuclear Credit to support the plant in April, just weeks before its scheduled closure. The move surprised advocates, who said the announcement was too little, too late for a plant whose closure had been scheduled since 2017.

The plan to reopen Palisades also was a surprise, the Holland Sentinel reported. The newspaper said it was unclear how many of the plant’s former employees are still available to staff the facility if it is reopened.

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Alex Brown
Alex Brown

Based in Seattle, Alex Brown covers environmental issues for Stateline. Prior to joining Stateline, Brown wrote for The Chronicle in Lewis County, Washington state.