The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Terry Lodge, legal counsel, Toledo, OH, (419) 205-7084,
Michael Keegan, Co-Chair, Don't Waste Michigan, Monroe, MI, (734) 770-1441,
Kevin Kamps, Radioactive Waste Specialist, Beyond Nuclear, Takoma Park, MD, (240) 462-3216,
Bette Pierman, President, Michigan Safe Energy Future, Benton Harbor, MI, (269) 369-3993,

Gail Snyder, Board President, Nuclear Energy Information Service, Chicago, IL, (630) 363-6417,

Environmental Coalition Condemns NRC Approval of Holtec Takeover of Palisades Atomic Reactor

Beyond Nuclear, Don't Waste Michigan, and Michigan Safe Energy Future Had Petitioned U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Raising Health, Safety, Environmental, and Financial Concerns


Nearly ten months after having met the agency's arbitrarily short 20-day legal deadline last February, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has rejected a petition to intervene and request for hearing to NRC. The petition was submitted on behalf of members of the environmental groups by Toledo, OH attorney Terry Lodge, and backed by expert witness Robert Alvarez, senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. Some of the legal standing declarants live less than a mile from the Palisades nuclear power plant on the Lake Michigan shoreline.

NRC announced its "Notification of Significant Licensing Action" on Dec. 6, stating that its approval for Palisades' license transfer from Entergy to Holtec would occur "on or around December 13." NRC issued its official approval today. The license transfer would take effect shortly after Entergy's previously announced permanent closure of the half-century old Palisades atomic reactor, by May 31, 2022.

"Not only did NRC force us to meet an impossibly short deadline last February, but then it made us wait nearly ten months, without a peep, only to deny us any hearing on our very serious environmental, health, safety, and fiscal concerns," said Michael Keegan of Monroe, MI, Don't Waste Michigan Co-Chairman. "We have been denied our due process rights by this rogue federal agency, captured by the industry it is supposed to regulate," Keegan added.

"In response to this shocking ruling by the NRC commissioners and staff, I will confer with my clients, to seriously consider an appeal to federal court," said Terry Lodge, the environmental coalition's legal counsel.

Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center, as well as the Office of State of Michigan Attorney General, Dana Nessel, had also petitioned NRC for a hearing, in opposition to the Holtec takeover of Palisades.

The environmental coalition's legal and technical challenges opposed to current owner Entergy Nuclear's license transfer to Holtec International for decommissioning purposes and high-level radioactive waste management include Holtec's disqualifying bad corporate character, and its unnacceptable bids to drain the already woefully inadequate Nuclear Decommissioning Trust Fund (NDTF) for non-decommissioning expenses, such as irradiated nuclear fuel management and site restoration.

In fact, as part and parcel of its rejection of the coalition's hearing request, and its approval of the license transfer, NRC also rubber-stamped Holtec's waiver request to spend hundreds of millions of dollars from the Palisades NDTF on non-decommissioning expenses.

"NRC's blank check for Holtec to misappropriate Palisades Decommissioning Trust Funds is an outrage, looting the pocketbooks of hardworking Michiganders," said Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear, who also serves as a Don't Waste Michigan board of directors member, representing his native Kalamazoo chapter. "It will undoubtedly shortchange cleanup of radioactive contamination at Palisades, harming current and future generations' health, safety, and environment downwind and downstream," Kamps added.

The now rejected intervention also objected to Holtec's large underestimation of both decommissioning expenses, as well as highly radioactive irradiated nuclear fuel management expenses. For example, the coalition's expert witness, Robert Alvarez, an Institute for Policy Studies senior scholar, and a former senior advisor to the U.S. Energy Secretary, has shown that Holtec has given no consideration to high burnup irradiated nuclear fuel's higher thermal heat load and radioactivity levels, even though it comprises a large percentage of the fuel to be stored on-site, and likely for much longer than Holtec's overly optimistic year 2066 terminus date.

Lastly, the coalition has argued for NRC to undertake a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, to address: the site's radioactive contamination of soil and groundwater; various "low" level radioactive waste streams, such as steam generators and highly radioactive Reactor Vessel Internals; the need for repackaging irradiated nuclear fuel from non-transportable and even defective current containers into new replacement containers; and increasing radiologic risks due to the current historic high, and worsening, Lake Michigan water levels.

Holtec's proposed takeover would also include Palisades' sibling, the Lake Michigan shoreline Big Rock Point nuclear power plant site in Charlevoix, Michigan, as part of the license transfer package deal. Although NRC in 2006 approved the supposedly-decommissioned site's release for unrestricted use, watchdogs remain very concerned about significant documented radioactive contamination abandoned there. In addition, eight casks of highly radioactive waste are still stored there, with nowhere else to go.

"With no ability to unload the high-level radioactive waste from an already known defective VSC-24 cask, and potentially additional faulty casks of this and other models in the future, Entergy and Holtec have teed up a cataclysmic disaster on the shore of Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan will eventually eat Palisades, and this unaddressed problem amounts to 'Criminal Negligence,'" stated Michael J. Keegan, Co-Chairman of Don't Waste Michigan in Monroe, MI.

"We continue to call for a safe and complete decommissioning which requires the removal of all radioactive waste that will likely be stored onsite indefinitely," said Bette Pierman, President of Michigan Safe Energy Future in Benton Harbor, MI. "It must be secured in non-permeable hard casks because of the highly radioactive waste. We strongly question Holtec International's decommissioning proposal with no guarantee of this to safeguard our health and that of our precious Lake Michigan. We also have serious concerns about the current Decommissioning Trust Funds--which were previously raided by Consumers Power and Entergy--to cover the complete costs of cleanup and restoration of the Palisades site. We do not want Holtec to leave Michigan ratepayers with a bill and a radioactive legacy," Pierman added.

"We object to NRC allowing Holtec to drain an initial $166 million, and likely more in the future, from the Palisades Nuclear Decommissioning Trust Fund for unrelated high-level radioactive waste management expenses, because that will severely shortchange the cleanup of documented extensive hazardous radioactive contamination of soil and groundwater," said Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste specialist with Beyond Nuclear, a national watchdog group based in Takoma Park, MD. "Abandoned radioactive contamination will flow downstream over time, into Lake Michigan and inland aquifers, both drinking water supplies. The radioactivity will not dilute, but rather bio-concentrate up the food chain, endangering current and future generations," Kamps added.

"As people who share the same Lake Michigan drinking water supply with 16 million other people, we are deeply concerned with how the Palisades closure and decommissioning is handled," stated Gail Snyder, Board President of Nuclear Energy Information Service, based in Chicago, IL. "Having witnessed the numerous highly questionable dealings surrounding the decommissioning of the Zion nuclear reactors in Illinois from 2010 to the present, we are highly suspicious of Holtec's motives and capability to conduct a credible and safe decommissioning, and skeptical that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will do more than a check-box oversight of the project. For those reasons constant and direct oversight from state and federal legislators in Michigan is imperative," Snyder warned.

Beyond Nuclear, Don't Waste Michigan, and Nuclear Energy Information Service have also intervened against Holtec's proposal to target majority minority (Hispanic, Indigenous) New Mexico with the country's high-level radioactive waste dump, a so-called "consolidated interim storage facility" (CISF) for irradiated nuclear fuel that risks becoming de facto permanent surface storage. Terry Lodge serves as legal counsel for Don't Waste Michigan and Nuclear Energy Information Service, and five additional grassroots environmental groups from across the U.S., in that proceeding as well. NRC has rejected all opponents' appeals, and the groups have now appealed the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, as well as the 10th Circuit in the Southwest.

"At the very top of the list of CISF non-starters is highly radioactive waste barge shipments, from Palisades to the Port of Muskegon, for offload onto a train for export out to the Southwest," said Terry Lodge, the environmental coalition's legal counsel. "Irradiated fuel sunk to the bottom of Lake Michigan could cause ruinous radioactive releases into the drinking water supply for tens of millions of people downstream in seven states, two provinces, and a large number of Indigenous Nations. Radioactive steam generator barge shipments across Lake Michigan, through Chicago's waterways, and down the Mississippi River could likewise lead to drinking water catastrophes," Lodge added.

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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