|WASHINGTON, D.C.; COVERT TWP., MI; HAYES TWP., MI, JUNE 28, 2022–Holtec has put out a press release, announcing its takeover of the permanently shutdown Palisades and Big Rock Point (near Charlevoix, MI) atomic reactor sites on Michigan’s Lake Michigan shoreline. In the past day or two, local watch-dogs have also obtained an Entergy document, dated June 24, 2022, published by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), indicating that today the licenses at the sites transfer from Entergy to Holtec.
Representatives from a coalition of environmental organizations who oppose Holtec’s takeover have responded to the news.
“We met NRC’s short, strict 20-day deadline to request a hearing and petition for leave to intervene in this license transfer proceeding on February 24, 2021,” said Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste specialist at Beyond Nuclear. “That was well over a year ago, but the public has been systemically stonewalled since,” Kamps added.
Last December, the NRC staff tentatively approved the license transfer, and the environmental coalition condemned the NRC’s tentative approval of the Holtec takeover at that time.
“When do we get our day in court?” asked Terry Lodge, an attorney based in Toledo, Ohio who serves as the environmental coalition’s legal counsel. “We filed numerous contentions opposing Holtec’s takeover, including its unacceptably shallow radiological contamination cleanup plans, its scheme to barge highly radioactive wastes on Lake Michigan to the port of Muskegon, and its corrupt corporate character, including its involvement in bribery scandals,” Lodge added.
Holtec’s plans are documented in its December 23, 2020 Post-Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report (PSDAR), jointly filed with Entergy when the sales agreement was also announced. The environmental coalition’s Feb. 24, 2021 intervention request and petition for hearing are posted online, here.
Environmental Law & Policy Center of Chicago, as well as the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Michigan, also intervened by NRC’s Feb. 24, 2021 deadline, in opposition to Holtec’s takeover, citing financial concerns.
An environmental coalition of 41 organizations submitted comments to NRC, under protest for the arbitrarily and capriciously short deadline, by early March 2021. The comments opposed Holtec’s takeover of Palisades and Big Rock Point.
In late March, 2021, the would-be intervenors defended their interventions against legal challenges brought by Entergy and Holtec. However, the NRC staff sat out the proceeding. NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board has never issued any rulings. Nor have the NRC Commissioners.
Beyond Nuclear’s Kevin Kamps asked NRC staff at its Palisades annual performance review in June 2021, as well as at its informal Palisades decommissioning meeting in June 2022, when the agency would address the interventions. NRC staff’s answer, both times, was that the matter was before the NRC Commissioners.
Members of the coalition have again raised numerous specific objections to Holtec’s takeover.
“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 is eating away the Palisades shoreline, and systematic ignorance of this unaddressed problem is ‘Criminal Negligence’ by the NRC,” 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-Shoreline Chapter in Benton Harbor, MI. “It must be secured in non-permeable hardened 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 do not trust Holtec to conduct a complete, safe decommissioning with the public’s many hundreds of millions of dollars in the Nuclear Decommissioning Trust Fund while this coalition was denied its day in court regarding our legal intervention,” said Iris Potter of the Michigan Safe Energy Future-Kalamazoo Chapter and Palisades Shutdown Campaign.
“We object to NRC allowing Holtec to drain the Palisades Nuclear Decommissioning Trust Fund for unrelated high-level radioactive waste management expenses. Doing so will severely shortchange the cleanup of documented extensive hazardous radioactive contamination of soil and groundwater,” said Kamps of Beyond Nuclear. “This abandoned radioactive contamination will flow downstream into Lake Michigan and inland aquifers. Radioactivity bio-concentrates up the food chain, endangering current and future generations,” Kamps added.