Senior Public Affairs Officer
Entergy announced last week it would permanently shut down its Palisades Nuclear Plant on October 1, 2018. The facility, located in Covert, Mich., has been in operation since 1971 and is licensed to operate until 2031.
The NRC was not involved in the decision, which the company said was based on business and financial factors. Our single focus as an independent regulator is on the safety of nuclear plants, the public and the environment.
However, once any announcement about closure is made, the NRC becomes engaged and the company has to meet our requirements for permanently shutting down an operating reactor.
The first step in this process requires Entergy to make a written Certification of Permanent Cessation of Operations to the NRC within 30 days from announcing its decision to permanently take the plant off line.
Should Entergy decide to continue operating the plant beyond the date stated in the certification, it would have to notify the NRC in writing.
As long as the plant is operating, we will continue to independently verify Palisades is meeting NRC’s stringent requirements. These requirements will remain in place until all fuel is removed from the reactor and the NRC has the company’s certifications of permanent cessation of operation and permanent fuel removal. At that point in the process, Entergy is no longer authorized to put new fuel into the reactor or resume plant operation.
The plant then enters the NRC’s well-established decommissioning process geared towards ensuring the continued safe use of nuclear material, and the safety of nuclear workers and the public. Decommissioning must be completed within 60 years of the plant ceasing operations.
Nuclear plant operators are required to plan for the ultimate decommissioning of the plant before it begins operations by establishing and maintaining a dedicated decommissioning fund. These funds – created to ensure there will be sufficient money to pay for a plant’s radiological decommissioning — cannot be used for any other purpose unless the NRC grants an exemption.
Operating plants must maintain the required levels established by the NRC and certify that there is reasonable assurance there will be adequate decommissioning funds, at least every two years while the plant is operating and more frequently after it ceases operations. The NRC reviewed the decommissioning funding status report for Palisades in 2015 and found that it met our requirements.