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Julianne Geiger

Julianne Geiger

Julianne Geiger is a veteran editor, writer and researcher for Oilprice.com, and a member of the Creative Professionals Networking Group.

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Controversial Lake Michigan Nuclear Power Plant To Stay Open

After a failed deal that would have partially funded the decommissioning of Entergy’s Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in Covert, Michigan, the decision has been made to keep the plant open past its original closing date, according to a company press release issued on Thursday.

The plant, situated squarely on the shores of Lake Michigan, was originally set to close in October of next year, due to the “business risks of continued operations,” but will now remain operational until Spring of 2022.

“We determined that a shutdown in 2018 is prudent when comparing the transaction to the business risks of continued operations,” Entergy’s chairman and CEO said in a December 2016 press release, adding that “Market conditions have changed substantially, and more economic alternatives are now available to provide reliable power to the region.”

Entergy did not specify what those “more economic alternatives” were.

Contradicting the December decision to close based on economics, Entergy today decided it is more prudent to keep the plant open until 2022, after state regulators disallowed Consumer’s Energy to pass on the full $172 million in recovery costs to its customers. The money would have been paid to Entergy to back out of the contract, and ultimately used to pay for plant decommissioning.

State regulators agreed to only $136 million for recovery—a reduction that apparently is a deal-breaker.

Setting aside the economic reasons, the December notice to close the Palisades plant early came just months after a 2016 letter to Entergy from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in response to a 2013 leak of “slightly” radioactive water into Lake Michigan. The NRC gave Entergy notice that three violations had been identified and were being considered for “escalated enforcement”.  The violations included “willful failure” to enter information concerning the leak, among other things. Related: Oil Prices Haven’t Plateaued Yet

This leak was not an isolated incident—from 2012 to 2013, the Palisades was shut down at least six times to deal with leaks, and the Palisades has been plagued with troubles since shortly after construction in 1966, when Consumer’s—then owner—filed lawsuits against the five companies that built and designed the plant, citing everything from defective equipment to faulty design. The plant was shut for over a year starting in 1973 after a radioactive leak was discovered that sent large amounts of poisonous radiation into both the atmosphere and Lake Michigan, according to an Ann Arbor Sun article from 1974.

While anti-nuclear activists cheered the early closure plans which are now a thing of the past, many local residents, including the public school system that relies on the Palisades for nearly half of its budget, are relieved that the closure has been delayed.

The nuclear facility—located just 8 miles from South Haven’s popular tourist attraction, North Beach—employs just 600 people, and is the largest taxpayer in the county.

The closure—and decision to delay that closure—highlights the tricky tradeoff between public safety, operational costs, and near-carbon-neutral energy.

By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com

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