Coalition FOIAs DOE and State of Michigan re: why Palisades was denied CNC bailout
Beyond Nuclear has joined with Don’t Waste Michigan to file Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the State of Michigan, seeking answers as to why DOE denied Holtec International a Civil Nuclear Credit (CNC) bailout to the tune of a billion dollars or more, in order to restart the 51-year old reactor.
See the FOIA request to DOE, here:11 20 22 Palisades FOIA - FOIA
See the FOIA request to the State of Michigan, here:11 29 22 MI FOIA request acknowledgement
The CNC program, established under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law), contains $6 billion in old reactor bailouts. Holtec announced on November 18, 2022 that its July 5, 2022 application for CNC program subsidies had been rejected by DOE, but neither Holtec, DOE nor the State of Michigan has publicly revealed why the funding was declined.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has been the lead advocate for the federal bailout since April 2022. Whitmer has even suggested that state funding, including in the form of a Power Purchase Agreement, could be provided, in order to restart the dangerously age-degraded reactor, for as many as nine more years of operations (Palisades’ extended license expires in 2031).
Palisades’ previous owner, Entergy, closed Palisades for good, as long planned, on May 20, 2022. Entergy also officially terminated Palisades’ operating license after the irradiated nuclear fuel was removed from the reactor core for the last time, in early to mid-June 2022.
A reactor once closed for good has never been returned to operations.
Michigan Public Service Commissioner Katherine L. Peretick has also backed the scheme, calling for companies to step forward to make it happen.
On September 9, 2022, Palisades’ new owner Holtec announced that on July 5, just days after taking over the permanently shut reactor on June 28, it had applied to DOE for CNC program funding. This action had been kept secret from the public for more than two months. It also amounted to a bait and switch, a deception. Since December 23, 2020, Holtec had claimed its proposed takeover of Palisades was for decommissioning purposes only. Holtec did take over Palisades on June 28, 2022, with the approval of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, despite the best efforts of Beyond Nuclear, Don’t Waste Michigan, Michigan Safe Energy Future, as well as Environmental Law and Policy Center and even the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Michigan, to challenge Holtec’s takeover for a variety of reasons, from financial inadequacy to risks to environment, health, and safety.
Beyond Nuclear and Don’t Waste Michigan, represented by legal counsel Terry Lodge, wrote in their FOIA requests that “There
has been ongoing and contentious public policy controversy regarding this matter…Since November 18, 2022, there has been considerable media reportage that DOE has rejected a request from Holtec International for funding under the Program, but no publication of, or quotation from, the DOE communication rejecting Holtec’s application. There is a great need for
prompt disclosure so that the released information may more adequately inform the public debate.”
Although there is reporting that Holtec will not continue seeking public funding to pay for restarting Palisades, as from the second round of DOE CNC program bailouts, there are also signs that pro-nuclear advocates, bemoaning Palisades’ closure, are still lobbying decision makers and seeking openings for bailouts that would bring the Palisades “zombie” reactor back to life.
(Diablo Canyon Units 1 and 2 in California were the only first round DOE CNC program recipients, in the amount of $1.1 billion. This means $4.9 billion in DOE CNC program funding remains for the second, or even future, rounds of giveaways. Pacific Gas & Electric had planned, since 2016, to close both reactors by 2025, after a hard won agreement with four environmental groups, as well as its own nuclear trade unions. However, at California Governor Gavin Newsom’s urging, PG&E reversed its long held position, and backed out of the agreement it had itself initiated.)
In addition to the second round of DOE CNC program bailouts, there is an additional $73 billion in bailout money for old reactors contained in the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act.
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