News about Palisades – from “rocky history” to shutdown announcement and beyond
Editor’s note: Updates about Palisades Nuclear Generating Station took so much space on our News Page that we decided to move news about Palisades to a whole new page. Welcome to our “Palisades Chronology” page.
On December 9, 2016, the day after the Palisades shutdown news release, The Herald Palladium published a comprehensive timeline covering “Palisades’ rocky history.” The timeline begins a few months before the January 28, 1966, headline that hailed a new “$100 million electrical plant.” The March, 1973, timeline entry reports that “after eight years and $170 million,” Palisades got the okay to operate at full power. The Palladium’s Palisades chronology ends with the August, 2016, announcement that Anthony Vitale, who’d been in charge at Palisades for five years, was being replaced.
Our Palisades Chronology begins July, 2016 – a month before the boss got replaced.
Kalamazoo’s WWMT TV Channel 3 reports that “several” security officers are on paid leave as Palisades investigates “anomalies” – more specifically, falsified reporting. Following up on an anonymous tip from a Palisades employee, WWMT learned that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is “closely monitoring the plant’s investigation as well as the plant’s response to the situation.” When a WWMT reporter asked why the public had not been notified of the investigation, an NRC spokesperson “said the commission had no obligation to notify media.”
The “several” security staffers on paid administrative leave turns out to be 22 officers – including the anonymous tipster – as the remaining guards work 75-hour weeks. The FBI is now involved in the investigation, according to this report from Beyond Nuclear.
According to an update from WWMT Channel 3, “Palisades officials first became aware of the fire tour anomalies in early June.” NRC officials failed to mention this investigation in their June 23 Palisades review.
WWMT Channel 3 says the security officers’ union at Palisades will file a grievance if its officers face discipline. The grievance will cite “no set guidelines” and a lack of training. A Palisades spokesperson says “most” of the officers on paid leave have returned to work.
News Talk Radio 94.9 WSJM in Benton Harbor has learned that Entergy Vice President Anthony Vitale, who’s been in charge at Palisades since 2011, has been transferred to a different Entergy nuclear plant. The new chief, Charles Arnone, has twice been in charge of safety assurance at Palisades.
Maybe false, inaccurate, and delayed reporting is standard procedure for Entergy. An Entergy report correcting a false report was also false, according to Ed Bradley, Plymouth, Massachusets, Fire Chief. Bradley said that several other communications from Entergy about “odd events” at its Pilgrim nuclear plant also have been late, false, or both. Last May, Entergy was charged with submitting false reports about its Vermont Yankee plant. Here in Southwest Michigan, the investigation into false reporting at Entergy’s Palisades plant, which began in early June, was not mentioned during a June 23 NRC Palisades review. It remained unreported to the public until July 8 when a whistleblower approached WWMT Channel 3 in Kalamazoo.
Entergy says Palisades will close permanently October 1, 2018. According to a news release Thursday morning, December 8, from Entergy, corporate owner-operator of Palisades Nuclear Plant near Covert and South Haven in Van Buren County, Michigan, the plant will close on October 1, 2018. MLive published Entergy’s news release and followed up with a more detailed report. WOOD-TV 8 reported that Palisades’ only customer, Consumers Energy, “reached an agreement with Entergy Corporation to end its contract to purchase power from the Palisades nuclear plant earlier than expected.” The purchase agreement was originally planned to last through 2022. In 2011, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted Palisades a license renewal that allowed the 45-year-old, dangerously embrittled plant to operate until 2031. (See our blog post “What to watch for.”)
- “Permanent Palisades Shut Down Announcement: For anti-nuke activists, a celebration. Then what?“
- Midwest Energy News calls a Palisades bailout unlikely.
Michigan Public Service Commission sends Consumers a request for information.
Consumers responds to MPSC’s questions.
The Executive Committee of Sierra Club Southwest Michigan Group adopts a resolution supporting the shutdown. The resolution calls for Palisades’ closure and decommissioning to “proceed on schedule.” It also insists that “local, state, and national officials and legislators must neither offer nor consider providing financial assistance…to keep Palisades operating or to cover decommissioning and extended security costs.” As SWMG’s news release says, “No bailout for failure.” The resolution also calls for special consideration of workers left unemployed by the shutdown.
An email from Frank Zaski, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter energy expert, distilled and translated the response Consumers gave to MPSC’s questions:
“The MPSC asked CMS many questions regarding the early termination, particularly, where will the power come from? CMS answered:
The Company’s palisades PPA buyout replacement plan relies on:
- increased energy efficiency;
- increased commercial and industrial demand response;
- acceleration and increase in the size of the Cross Winds Energy Park;
- amending the Company’s existing PPA with T.E.S. Filer City; and
- continued operation of the Company’s Gaylord, Straits, and Campbell peaking combustion turbines, in total delivering 470 additional Zonal Resource Credits (“ZRCs”) by 2021.
Taken with the Company’s current forecasted capacity surplus, this plan is sufficient to meet the needs of the Company’s customers and deliver significant savings in costs compared to the continuation of the Palisades PPA.”
Not mentioned but available, added Zaski, is the 1,000 MW Indeck gas plant that will be built in Niles Mi., 44 miles from Palisades and provide electricity to the area. The DEQ signed off the Indeck air permit.
MPSC asks Consumers a few more questions.
MiBiz reports that MPSC is concerned about the financial aspects of the Palisades closure agreement and “the reliability of the grid.” MPSC wants to decide by August 31. MiBiz adds:
Unlike in states such as Illinois and New York, environmental groups in Michigan generally support closing Palisades. In those states, advocates have pushed to keep open economically struggling nuclear plants — which are challenged by low natural gas prices and increasingly cheaper renewables — by providing billions of dollars in subsidies primarily because nuclear is a virtually carbon emission-free generation source.
Anne Woiwode, conservation director for the Michigan chapter of the Sierra Club, says her group “applauds” the plant’s closure because of concerns over nuclear waste storage near the Great Lakes and a history of other environmental problems at Palisades.
Entergy may consider selling Palisades to a new company that will specialize in nuclear plant decommissioning, according to a report from Utility Dive.
Closing Palisades will improve Consumers Energy’s financial position, says CEO Patti Poppe. RTO Insider reports:
Poppe said CMS [Consumers Energy] will improve its financial position by terminating the Palisades nuclear plant PPA [power purchase agreement] in favor of employing more energy efficiency, demand response, renewable power and coal-to-gas switching. (See Entergy, Consumers Announce Closure of Palisades Nuke.) According to CMS, the plan will save customers $172 million over four years.
Poppe said the substitute capacity plan for the Palisades PPA is “solid” and replaces a “single, big-bet capital project for many smaller options” with less risk. She said CMS could make more PPA replacements in the future by building new plants.