Palisades nuclear facility shuts down early after performance issue

Published 8:00 am Saturday, May 21, 2022

VAN BUREN COUNTY — A nuclear power plant set to be permanently closed at the end of the month has been closed 11 days early.  

Control room operators at Entergy’s Palisades Power Plant in Covert safely removed the nuclear reactor from service for the final time on May 20, according to a news release from Entergy.  

“The plant was originally scheduled to permanently shut down on May 31, but after careful monitoring, operators made the conservative decision to shut down the plant early due to the performance of a control rod drive seal,” the release said. “The final shut down marks the end of more than 50 successful years of safe, secure, and reliable generation of clean, carbon-free electricity at Palisades, which began commercial operation in 1971.” 

Following the safe removal of used fuel from the reactor, the facility will be transferred to Holtec International for purposes of a safe and timely decommissioning, under the terms of an agreement between Entergy and Holtec International. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asked the federal government for money April 20 to keep the plant open. Entergy said at the time that the plan to close remained in place. 

Announced in 2017, the shutdown of Palisades completes Entergy’s strategy to exit the merchant power generation business and coincides with the expiration of the station’s 15-year power purchase agreement with Consumers Energy. 

“The enduring legacy of Palisades is the thousands of men and women who safely, reliably, and securely operated the plant, helping power Southwest Michigan homes and businesses for more than 50 years,” said Darrell Corbin, site vice president. “We refer to a credo at Palisades: ‘Palisades Proud.’ Thanks to the pride, professionalism, and hard work of our 600-member team, we finished Palisades Proud. We are also grateful to the local community for its support of the plant and for the strong partnership we have enjoyed all these years.” 

The facility shut down after continuously generating electricity for 577 days since it was last refueled – a site and world record production run for a plant of its kind. Palisades remains ranked in the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s highest safety category and is regarded by its peers as one of the top performers in the industry. 

About 130 employees will relocate for new jobs in other Entergy facilities, the release said. About 260 current employees will be hired by Holtec for the first phase of decommissioning. Around 180 employees will leave the company and more than half of them are retirement eligible, according to the release.