The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear & Don't Waste Michigan, (240) 462-3216,
Michael Keegan, Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes and Don't Waste Michigan, (734) 770-1441,
Terry Lodge, legal counsel for environmental coalition opposed to Palisades' operation, (419) 205-7084,

Environmental Groups Warn Michigan Governor Whitmer about Sale of Palisades Atomic Reactor to Holtec

Fears of Radioactive Contamination to be Left Behind, Short Cuts on Highly Radioactive Waste Management


The national nuclear power industry watch-dog group Beyond Nuclear, with support from Michigan-based organizations Don't Waste Michigan and Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes, has written Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, urging the state government intervene against the license transfer of Palisades nuclear power plant, in Van Buren County on the Lake Michigan shoreline, from its current owner, Entergy, to a subsidiary of New Jersey-based Holtec International. Entergy has announced it will shut Palisades for good by May 31, 2022, after which the reactor will enter its decommissioning phase. Numerous other state officials, including the Lt. Gov., Attorney General, Public Service Commissioners, Department of Health and Human Services officials, Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) officials, Michigan's Treasurer, the state's U.S. congressional delegation, state legislative leaders, and Indigenous Nations leaders, were copied on the letter.

If the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approves the license transfer of Palisades, then Holtec, along with its consortium partner SNC-Lavalin of Montreal, Quebec, would be put in charge of Palisades' decommissioning (facility dismantlement), radiological cleanup, and highly radioactive waste management. Palisades' sister reactor site, Big Rock Point in Charlevoix, Michigan, would be included in the sale. There is a meeting of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on Tuesday, December 8th, from 2 to 4pm Eastern, to discuss the sale and license transfer. State officials, environmental group representatives, and impacted residents can attend the teleconference, make comments, and share concerns. Members of the news media can ask questions. Details of the NRC meeting are posted here, including the teleconference call-in numbers. Here is a link to the slideshow that will be presented. Michigan Radio has reported on the meeting.

The groups have warned Gov. Whitmer that transferring Palisades' licenses to Holtec poses significant risks to Michigan -- in terms of health and safety, environmental impacts on the surrounding area and Lake Michigan, and in terms of its impact on the state's economy and fiscal health. Holtec's track record -- as well as that of its decommissioning consortium partner, SNC-Lavalin of Canada -- includes bribery, fraud, and malfeasance, as well as serious shortcomings in terms of financial assurance, technical qualifications, and decommissioning experience.

Simply put, there's ample reason to worry Holtec could do a superficial job of decommissioning, exhaust Palisades' already woefully inadequate decommissioning trust fund and other public monies, walk away with no liability, and leave the Great Lakes State and surrounding communities, downwind and downstream, to bear the risks and costs of a radioactively contaminated site over the long term. It's happened to other reactor communities before. This is of great concern at Palisades, given its significant radioactive contamination of soil and groundwater, on the edge of Lake Michigan as well as an inland aquifer, both of which are used for drinking water by immediately adjacent communities, such as Palisades Park and South Haven.
But these risks are addressable, the groups have pointed out. While the industry-captured U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission -- unfortunately, given its dereliction of duty -- has sole, exclusive jurisdiction over radiological safety issues, state governments are not powerless, the groups assert. The State of Michigan can and should assert its significant authority over numerous other aspects of the license transfer and decommissioning decisions, the environmental coalition has stated.
Michael Keegan with the Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes, and co-chair of the Don't Waste Michigan board of directors based in Monroe, Michigan, stated: "Four mechanisms by which the State of Michigan can protect its residents include: insistence of $500 million in surety bonds/escrow, until Palisades' cleanup meets the state government's expectations; a state-authorized Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Board, with funding from the Decommissioning Trust Fund, with independent expertise, autonomy, and oversight with teeth; transparency and quality assurance; and the State of Michigan becoming an official legal intervenor in the license transfer proceeding, demanding public hearings."
Terry Lodge, Toledo, Ohio-based attorney, legal counsel to the environmental coalition opposed to Palisades' ongoing operations for the past 15 years, stated: "NRC's very troubling likely decisions, to let Entergy operate one of the most dangerous atomic reactors in the country for at least another year and a half, and then allow it to be handed off to the most controversial dismantler around, Holtec, should give no one rest."
Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear, a Don't Waste Michigan board of directors member representing the Kalamazoo chapter, stated: "Holtec and SNC-Lavalin are crooked companies, which have engaged in bribery and other criminal behaviors. They cannot be trusted, other than to do as little radiological cleanup as they can get away with, while taking as many shortcuts on high-level radioactive waste management as they can get away with, and then pocket all the remaining money from the decommissioning trust fund, all with rubber-stamp complicity and collusion from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission."
Kamps added: "After Consumers Energy and Entergy looted Palisades' decommissioning trust fund to the tune of $316 million in 2007, Entergy now claims there is only $552 million left. This is woefully inadequate to perform comprehensive radiological cleanup of Palisades' significantly contaminated site, located on the edge of Lake Michigan, headwaters of the Great Lakes, drinking water supply for 40 million people downstream, in seven U.S. states, two Canadian provinces, and a large number of Indigenous Nations. Holtec and SNC-Lavalin have clearly shown that they cannot be trusted to carry out such a high stakes job. We call on Michigan's governor, attorney general, Public Service Commission, county and local governments, to intervene as strongly against Holtec's takeover of Palisades and Big Rock Point, as have their equivalents in the State of New York against Holtec's takeover of Indian Point, in order to protect Michiganders against the costs, liabilities, and risks inherent in atomic reactor decommissioning and irradiated nuclear fuel management."

Beyond Nuclear aims to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abandon both to safeguard our future. Beyond Nuclear advocates for an energy future that is sustainable, benign and democratic.

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