A long-term power purchase agreement (PPA) signed between Holtec Palisades Energy and the non-profit Wolverine Power Cooperative may be a significant step towards restarting the US Palisades NPP.

The single-unit 800 MWe pressurised water reactor at Palisades NPP in Michigan began commercial operation in 1971. Operator Entergy announced in 2016 announced plans to close the plant in 2021 the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved transfer of the licence from Entergy to Holtec in preparation for its decommissioning it. The reactor was removed from service by Entergy in May 2022, and was defuelled. Its sale to Holtec was completed in June 2022 and Holtec then announced that it was applying for federal funding to allow restart of the plant.

Holtec failed in the first round of the Department of Energy's (DOE’s) Civil Nuclear Credit programme reapplied last December. Holtec says it is working with DOE to progress the loan application. Holtec has also participated in several public meetings with NRC staff to discuss the proposed regulatory path to reauthorise operations.

Holtec said it was pleased to report that the re-powering of Palisades had taken “a giant step forward” with the signing of the PPA, “The signing of this business agreement is a significant milestone to ensure assured operation of the facility and an enhanced carbon-free energy future for Michigan,” Holtec noted.

“We thank Governor Whitmer, the Michigan legislature, the US Department of Energy led by Secretary Granholm, and the people of Michigan whose enthusiasm to render Palisades into a bastion of new clean energy generation has encouraged us to launch the odyssey of restoring Palisades energy generation,” said Holtec International CEO Dr Kris Singh. “We are well aware that, although we see no real obstacles ahead, re-powering of a dormant plant such as Palisades would be a feat that has never been achieved before. Hopefully, the Palisades revival would encourage our allies, Germany and Japan, who have many dormant nuclear plants, to adopt a similar course.”

The foundation of this partnership is a long-term, multi-decade PPA, with Wolverine committing to purchase up to two-thirds of the power generated by Palisades for its Michigan-based member rural electric cooperatives. Wolverine’s non-profit rural electric cooperative project partner, Hoosier Energy, will purchase the balance.

Kelly Trice, President of Holtec Nuclear Generation and Decommissioning said the PPA represented an important milestone towards reopening the plant. “The re-powering of Palisades ensures Michigan has sufficient energy to meet future demand and mitigate the impact of climate change, while creating hundreds of high-paying Michigan jobs, expanding the local tax base, and unleashing economic opportunity within the region and beyond.”

The agreement between the companies also contains a contract expansion provision to include up to two small modular reactors (SMRs) that Holtec intends to build and commission at the Palisades site. The addition of two SMRs at Palisades would translate into elimination of nearly 7m tons of carbon dioxide a year.

Image: The Palisades site (courtesy of Holtec)