Palisades nuclear power plant plans to build two small modular reactors

New reactors at Palisades Nuclear Power Plant
Posted at 10:29 AM, Dec 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-05 18:35:05-05

COVERT TOWNSHIP, Mich. — The owner of the Palisades nuclear power plant announced plans to construct two small modular reactors (SMRs) at the site of the partially-decommissioned facility.

In a Monday release, Holtec International said the dual, 300-megawatt reactors, if approved, will be commissioned by mid-2030, following the planned reopening of the plant's larger, 800-megawatt reactor in 2025, also pending approval.

"The industry has really moved in this direction," said Pat O'Brien, director of government affairs and communications for Holtec International.

READ MORE: Long-term agreement launches effort to restart Palisades power plant

Due to their modular nature, SMRs are able to be built on-site or in a factory, from which they can be transported to a specific location for use.

"You can deploy it anywhere, in any condition, which is key," O'Brien said about the reactor type.

While a number of US-based SMRs have received federal approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commmission (NRC), none are in operation.

"I think it's something that, quite frankly, the nation and the world need to help meet our climate goals," O'Brien said, referencing a recent standard agreed to by the United States and other countries to triple nuclear energy capacity by 2050. "Safe power for future generations."

For Kevin Kamps, though, there's little safety.

"It's a nuclear nightmare," Kamps said about the Palisades plant. "It's going to turn into radioactive Russian roulette on the Lake Michigan shoreline."

The radioactive waste specialist for Beyond Nuclear says the Maryland-based nonprofit plans to file with the NRC, petitioning the commission to turn down Holtec's request to reopen.

"Holtec has never built an atomic reactor. Holtec has never operated an atomic reactor," Kamps said, citing "design flaws" in the SMR. "This is a learning curve... Holtec has a really bad record."

Since 2011, Holtec has researched the reactor type, designed to operate within "the most adverse climate conditions and water-challenged regions," according to the Monday release. The SMR, according to the company, is "walk-away safe" and pressurizes water to retain heat, a "known technology."

"SMRs are safe," O'Brien said. "Because one thing this industry does is learn from the past."

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