Watchdogs Demand NRC Block Destruction of Safety-Significant Documents at Palisades Atomic Reactor


For immediate releaseContact: Kevin Kamps, Radioactive Waste Specialist, Beyond Nuclear, (240) 462-3216, [email protected]
Michael Keegan, Co-Chair, Don’t Waste Michigan, (734) 770-1441, [email protected]
Wally Taylor, Legal Counsel, (319) 350-5807, [email protected]
Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer, Fairewinds, (802) 238-4452

Watchdogs Demand NRC Block Destruction of Safety-Significant Documents at Palisades Atomic Reactor

Holtec and Governor Whitmer’s Push for Federal and State Bailouts, and Restored Operations at Closed Reactor, Require Document Preservation/Restoration

COVERT, MI and WASHINGTON, DC, FEBRUARY 6, 2023–Long-serving public watchdogs on the troubled, controversial, and risky Palisades atomic reactor in Covert Township, Michigan on the Lake Michigan shore (pictured above) have petitioned the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a Declaratory Order requiring preservation of safety-significant documents, restoration of any that have already been destroyed, and compilation of such documentation going forward.

Attorneys Wally Taylor of Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Terry Lodge of Toledo, Ohio filed the petition on behalf of Beyond Nuclear and Don’t Waste Michigan’s members and supporters on February 2, 2023. Several declarants providing legal standing for the groups reside within less than a mile of the Palisades atomic reactor.

Palisades’ previous owner, Entergy, permanently closed the atomic reactor on May 20, 2022. However, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has been advocating since April 2022 that its operations be continued into the future. Palisades’ new owner, Holtec International, after taking ownership on June 28, 2022, then secretly applied to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) just a week later, on July 5, 2022, for a billion dollar Civil Nuclear Credit (CNC) program bailout. The application was not announced publicly until September 9, 2022.

Although Holtec announced on November 18, 2022 that its application had been turned down by DOE, on December 19, 2022 Holtec announced it would apply again, for DOE’s second round of CNC program bailouts.

Holtec has also demanded state bailouts, for which Governor Whitmer has expressed enthusiastic support, despite an environmental coalition’s written protest in June 2022, and physical protest rally against the “zombie reactor scheme” at the state capitol building on October 29, 2022.

As part of the supposed permanent shutdown plan, Palisades’ previous owner Entergy applied to NRC for permission to discontinue collection of safety-significant reactor and spent nuclear fuel storage pool documentation on June 15, 2021. It also requested permission to destroy previous documentation, dating back more than 50 years, once the reactor was permanently shutdown, and the pool emptied of high-level radioactive waste and dismantled. NRC granted the requested documentation exemptions on November 23, 2021.

In the environmental coalition’s Request for Relief, its legal counsel argued “Petitioners request the Commissioners of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to exercise their supervisory authority to find and declare that the prior exemption allowing the discontinuation and destruction of records pertinent to the maintenance, current licensing basis and operation of the Palisades reactor be reversed, and that the Commissioners enter an order directing resumption of records compilation and retention and retrospective construction of any records that would otherwise have been generated and maintained during the time the exemption was in effect.”

“With rollbacks and exemptions the NRC has proceeded for years as if decommissioning is happening full-steam ahead at Palisades, but we’ve known since April 2022 this very well may not be the case,” said Michael Keegan, co-chair of Don’t Waste Michigan in Monroe. “In fact, in September 2022, we learned that Holtec has every intention of restoring Palisades’ operations, if it secures multi-billion dollar public bailouts,” Keegan added.

“If Holtec insists on restarting the worst-embrittled reactor pressure vessel in the country and perhaps the world, with steam generators and a reactor lid that have needed replacement for decades, and with control rod drive mechanism seals that have been problem-plagued for a half-century, then of course safety-significant system, structure, and component documentation must be preserved, and continually updated,” said Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste specialist at Beyond Nuclear. “And restart would mean yet more high-level radioactive waste generation, so storage pool documentation also needs to be maintained indefinitely,” Kamps added.

“For safety, airlines track every single change to each aircraft and include those changes in an aircraft ‘book.’ This is called ‘configuration management,’ and is also implemented in every operating nuclear power plant,” said Arnie Gundersen, chief engineer at Fairewinds. “When Palisades closed, it threw ‘the book’ out and now wants to run again without it. Configuration management is what makes nuclear power plants less risky. Keeping those records is critical to reducing risks in Michigan,” added Gundersen, who has served as nuclear safety expert witness for environmental intervenors at Palisades for a decade.

A previous media statement prepared by Gundersen, dated November 14, 2022, regarding the costs and complications of Palisades’ unprecedented proposed restart, is included below.

A coalition of 115 environmental groups recently wrote Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, herself a former governor and attorney general of Michigan. The environmental coalition letter urged that DOE reject Holtec’s requested CNC program bailout for the second time in just the past few months.


Re-release of November 14, 2022 press statement:

Contact: Arnold Gundersen, Chief Engineer, Fairewinds, (802) 238-4452

Press Availability and Statement by Arnold Gundersen, Chief Engineer, Fairewinds

Re: Scheme to Restart the Permanently Closed Palisades Atomic Reactor

Covert Township, Van Buren County, MI, November 14, 2022–Arnold Gundersen is Chief Engineer at Fairewinds. Gundersen, a world renowned nuclear power safety watchdog, and nuclear engineer with more than a half-century of experience, served as expert witness on behalf of a local grassroots and national environmental coalition intervening against a major rollback on safety at the Palisades atomic reactor in 2014. For decades, Palisades has been the worst neutron-embrittled reactor pressure vessel in the country, and perhaps the world. Gundersen also served as an expert witness for Friends of the Earth, a leading national environmental group, which culminated in the permanent shutdown of two atomic reactors at the San Onofre nuclear power plant in San Clemente, CA in 2013. And also in 2013, Gundersen served as expert witness for Beyond Nuclear and Don’t Waste Michigan on quality assurance in their oppositional intervention against DTE’s still-stagnated Fermi 3 atomic reactor new build scheme in Monroe County, MI. (Learn more about Arnie Gundersen’s expertise, here.)

Arnold Gundersen has released the following statement to the news media, and is available for one-on-one interviews:

“There are some very important questions for Holtec International to answer regarding its risky and costly scheme to restart the dangerously age-degraded Palisades atomic reactor, which the previous owner Entergy closed for good on May 20, 2022.

First, how many workers were there at Palisades on May 20, 2022, and how many are there today? How long would it take to restaff to the previous level, including training new workers?

Second, how many licensed reactor operators were there at Palisades on May 20, 2022, and how many are there today? How long would it take to restaff to the previous level, including training new control room operators? Or does Holtec simply plan to hire another company to actually operate the Palisades atomic reactor on its behalf? How long would it take to find and enter into a contract with such a company? Which companies are in the running for such a role? DTE?

Third, is there fresh nuclear fuel onsite? If not, how long would it take to order fresh fuel, and have it delivered to Palisades? How much would it cost? I estimate $50 million.

Fourth, how long will it take for Holtec International to obtain an operating license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which it currently lacks for the Palisades atomic reactor?

Fifth, how long will it take for Holtec International to establish a quality assurance/quality control program for reactor operations at Palisades, which it currently lacks?

Sixth, does Holtec International plan to address the Palisades atomic reactor’s need for a replacement vessel head, as well as for replacement steam generators, before commencing full power reactor operations? What about lingering embrittlement concerns, and the chronic control rod drive mechanism seal leakage that has plagued Palisades for 50 years, including leading to its permanent shutdown 11 days earlier than planned, on May 20, 2022?

Finally, how much would it cost, and who would pay, for retained staff to remain onsite while the reactor is unable to operate and generate electricity, due to: a lack of fresh fuel; an insufficient number of trained workers, including control room operators; the need to establish a quality assurance/control program; and numerous needed major safety significant repairs and replacements?

600 employees sitting around for a year costs half a billion bucks. TO PRODUCE NOTHING.

This is a fair question, since Holtec has applied for hundreds of millions to billions of dollars of federal taxpayer money to restart Palisades, and has also demanded a State of Michigan taxpayer and/or ratepayer bailout as well. How large will these bailouts be? More than a billion dollars in each case? Just to operate Palisades for a few short years?”


Beyond Nuclear is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit membership organization. Beyond Nuclear aims to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abolish both to safeguard our future. Beyond Nuclear advocates for an energy future that is sustainable, benign and democratic. The Beyond Nuclear team works with diverse partners and allies to provide the public, government officials, and the media with the critical information necessary to move humanity toward a world beyond nuclear. Beyond Nuclear: 7304 Carroll Avenue, #182, Takoma Park, MD 20912. [email protected].

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