by Scott McClallen
Taxpayers are being asked to fund the reopening of the Palisades nuclear plant in Southwest Michigan through a federal grant.
When it was still in operation, Palisades provided more than 800 megawatts of of carbon-free power and employed 600 people. The plant’s former owner closed the plant on May 20 after the plant’s fuel supply ran out and the power purchase agreement with Consumers Energy expired.
Palisades was sold to Holtec Decommissioning International in June 2022, which applied for a federal Civil Nuclear Credit on July 5 to reopen Palisades.
Jason Hayes, director of environmental policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said that nuclear energy provides the “the most energy-dense, the most reliable, and the safest form of electricity that we have available,” Hayes told the Center Square in a phone interview. “With all of that, nuclear causes the least impacts on the environment.”
Hayes said that nuclear power, along with natural gas, is key to providing reliable electricity for when renewable energy isn’t available, such as when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.
“You don’t know from one second to the next whether the wind is going to be blowing hard enough or too hard to produce electricity,” Hayes said. “So when the wind blows on or off or too hard, you have to have the natural gas sitting there, ready to go.”
He compared pivoting from renewable energy to nuclear or natural gas with driving an electric vehicle but requiring a backup Ford F-150 for when the EV’s battery dies or taking trips exceeding the EV travel range.
Hayes said that taxpayers subsidize the cost of renewable energy by about 30% so it seems affordable, and the cost of nuclear energy seems more expensive.
“It would be far better if the federal and state government would stop subsidizing unreliable, renewable energy and allow electricity markets to operate as markets should,” Hayes said.
In 2020, the U.S. Energy Information Administration says that Michigan’s energy sources varied but rely heavily on coal, natural gas, and nuclear power.
Hayes said that since the Palisades plant is already built, it makes “no sense” to shut it down 10 years to 15 years early.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a letter to the U.S. Department of Energy she supported keeping the plant open. She said it will “keep energy costs low, shore up domestic energy production, and increase Michigan’s competitiveness for future economic development.”
“The Palisades Nuclear Facility meets the criteria for this program and keeping it open will help us produce enough clean, reliable energy in Michigan to power hundreds of thousands of homes and small businesses,” Whitmer wrote. “While we await a final decision from the Department of Energy, we will continue efforts at the state level to create and protect good-paying jobs, compete for more economic development opportunities, and boost domestic energy production.”
The CNC program will subsidize nuclear reactors so they aren’t shut down prematurely due to financial hardship so it can continue to provide carbon-free electricity generation.
“We applaud Governor Whitmer for her leadership in recognizing the vital importance of Palisades to Michigan’s clean energy future as a source of safe and reliable carbon-free electricity,” Holtec International President and CEO Dr. Kris Singh said in a statement.
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.
Photo “Palisades Nuclear Plant” by Nuclear Regulatory Commission. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.