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Whitmer: Reopening nuclear plant only way to meet MI climate goals

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. (File photo: Rick Pluta/MPRN)
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. (File photo: Rick Pluta/MPRN)

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Monday that restarting a nuclear power plant on Lake Michigan is necessary to reach her goal of generating all the state’s electricity without burning fossil fuels.

Whitmer was part of an economic forum in Detroit, where she said affordable and accessible energy is critical to the state’s future. And she said part of her plan to make that possible is reactivating the Palisades Nuclear Generating Station, which would be the first nuclear plant in the U.S. to be restarted after being shuttered.

“We’re going to show not only can it be done, but it can be done safely and as great stewards of our resources,” told the Clean Economy and Community Impact Summit.

She said the local impact will include jobs and a boost to the local economy. She said those are immediate effects which can matter more than longer-term challenges like climate change.

Whitmer said re-opening the plant on Lake Michigan will be for jobs and attracting businesses looking for a reliable source of power.

“Many of us are also moved by the fact that it’s going to improve our carbon footprint, it’s going to extend the forward-thinking policies that are about climate and energy for people and know that that’s going to be the primary motivator,” she said.

“...Michiganders rightly want to know about what we’re going to do with all the waste, some of which will be stored on the shores of the Great Lakes...."

Nicholas Occhipinti
Michigan League of Conservation Voters

But some environmentalists say Michigan should not be too quick to embrace nuclear as part of the transition to green energy — and the state should not be committing taxpayer funds to the effort to restart a plant on the Great Lakes shoreline.

“I think Michiganders rightly want to know about what we’re going to do with all the waste, some of which will be stored on the shores of the Great Lakes — and most importantly, before we bet so much state taxpayer money, we should instead be doubling down on maximizing the buildout of our clean renewable energy-efficient future,” said Nicholas Occhipinti, government affairs director at the Michigan League of Conservation Voters.

In March, Whitmer and U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, a former Michigan governor, announced the federal government will offer a $1.5 billion loan to help the plant’s new owner, Holtec International, restart Palisades.

The Legislature has also approved a $150 million subsidy to help reopen the plant and Whitmer has included a request for another $150 million in her new budget proposal.

Palisades has been closed since 2022 as other types of energy such as wind and natural gas were considered a better bargain.

Holtec International bought the plant with an eye toward decommissioning it but is now open to restarting the facility with the right package of state and federal incentives.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.