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An NRC report finds Holtec misused decommissioning funds at Palisades and other sites

The green blue waves of lake Michigan brush against the shores that lay in front of the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant. The prominently gray facility stands as a divider between the pale yellow sands of the coast and the deep green of the trees and grass of the mainland. White clouds plume out from an adjacent structure near the heart of the Palisades.
Official Photo
Nuclear Regulatory Commission
The Palisades Nuclear Plant when it was in operation. It closed in May 2022.

Federal regulators say the company spent $53,500 of Palisades' decommissioning fund on its effort to restart the plant, and another $3,500 on community events.

Holtec International is decommissioning the Palisades Nuclear Plant while seeking federal approval to restart it. Palisades closed in 2022.

In a report released in February, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Holtec misused $57,000 in Palisades decommissioning funds.

It spent most of the money on recommissioning efforts, and the rest on community events.

“We take any violation no matter the amount very seriously, and have taken corrective actions to ensure that the amount was restored to the trust fund, I would add with interest,” said Holtec Spokesperson Nick Culp.

NRC spokesperson Victoria Mitlyng says the issue will not affect the agency's decision on reopening.

“The NRC’S oversight of Palisades is under the decommissioning category. As we review the restart request, the category will be 'oversight for operating plants.'”

The NRC also found that Holtec misspent funds at three other sites besides Palisades.

Kevin Kamps is with the group Beyond Nuclear, which is fighting the restart effort.

“NRC is rewarding Holtec with a rubber-stamp process that will end in the restart of one of the most dangerous atomic reactors in the entire world,” he said.

Kamps called the NRC's report a "red herring." He said Holtec spent $44 million in decommissioning funds in its first year managing the shuttered plant and said that the $57,000 in misused funds cited in the report may be the "tip of the iceberg."

"They are spending tens of millions of dollars, very likely, on the restart scheme, which is illegal," he said, but did not offer proof.

Asked about Kamps' allegation, Culp described some of the things Holtec spent decommissioning money on in 2022, including putting the facility into a "mothballed" state.

Kamps also claimed that the NRC is largely looking the other way and allowing Holtec to misuse decommissioning funds.

"We have a regulator who was much more of a lapdog than a watchdog, including on decommissioning trust fund expenditures," he said.

Kamps did not provide evidence of collusion between the agency and Holtec.

Mitlyng declined to directly respond to the allegation, but added that Beyond Nuclear can contact the agency if it knows of misspending by Holtec.

"If Beyond Nuclear is aware of specific situations where funds were misspent, they can file an allegation with the NRC," Mitlyng said. "We have an inspector general who is very active and you can take advantage of that process."

Mitlyng also stated that based on the information the agency has received, the $57,000 reported in February constituted all of the Palisades decommissioning funds that were misspent by Holtec.

Michael Symonds reports for WMUK through the Report for America national service program.

Report for America national service program corps member Michael Symonds joined WMUK’s staff in 2023. He covers the “rural meets metro” beat, reporting stories that link seemingly disparate parts of Southwest Michigan.