Federal regulators discuss future of Palisades with residents

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (WOOD) — Will the palisades nuclear power plant be ready to reopen next summer? That’s what the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is working to find out.

The panel met with dozens of people in the community who showed up with concerns Wednesday night at Lake Michigan College.

“If you start up again it’s bound to have a major failing which would be horrendous for the community,” said resident Jim Zerbi.

Zerbi is one of dozens of people who showed up at Lake Michigan college Wednesday night ready to ask questions and raise concerns. He doesn’t want the Palisades nuclear plant to reopen.

“Absolutely not. Take that money put it into solar and wind,” Zerbi said.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is inspecting the Palisades nuclear plant near South Haven, said the process to reopen the plant may be a long journey.

On March 27, the federal government announced a $1.5 billion conditional commitment to support the reopening of Palisades. The plant’s owner, Holtec, announced plans to bring the plant back online after it was closed for two years, since May of 2022. Before that, it had operated for 50 years.

After Palisades shutdown, what’s next?

The reopening of Palisades would mark the first restart of a closed nuclear reactor in U.S. history. It could take some time before a decision is made to see if the plant will reopen. The NRC said it will take as much time as necessary and will be a long journey.

“This has never been done in the world,” said Jack Giessner, the NRC Region 3 regional administrator.

He is part of the NRC restart team.

“We have the ability to say it’s not up to snuff or no, that’s not going to cut it,” Giessner explained.

Members with the NRC said if it’s not safe, they won’t approve it. When it was operating, according to the NRC, Palisades was operating safely. But the plant has been out of service for two years.

“They changed some things in the plant, so not a lot of change to the actual equipment, but they didn’t keep the equipment updated the way we would expect if the plant was operating. So there’s some pumps that haven’t been used in two years,” explained Giessner.

With Palisades’ goal to reopen next August, this panel said that all depends.

“If we find issues and they have to address it or we have to take action, it will take longer. The message is we are only going to let the plant restart if it’s safe,” said Jason Kozal, co-chair of the restart panel.

Zerbi still has his conerns.

“If that was really what’s going to happen that would be OK. I have my doubts,” Zerbi said.

So far, the NRC has inspected the main control room simulator and found no violations in those inspections. The panel is releasing the findings from its inspections online.

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