Holtec to reopen Palisades plant with DOE loan; Hinkley Point C delayed

Our pick of the latest nuclear power news you need to know

Palisades Nuclear Plant in Michigan (Source: Nuclear Regulatory Commission)

Holtec International is set to receive a $1.5-billion conditional loan in February from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to help restart the Palisades nuclear power plant in Michigan, Reuters reported citing a person with knowledge of the matter.

Holtec applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in October 2023 to restart the 800-MW plant after it was closed in May 2022 by then owner Entergy Corporation.

The reopening would be the first closed nuclear plant to restart operations in the United States.

The company was hoping for a timely approval to bring the plant back to full operation toward the end of 2025, a Holtec spokesman told Reuters, though he declined to comment on the DOE loan.

Holtec, which had planned to decommission the plant after it was brought offline as it struggled to compete with natural-gas fired plants and renewable energy, signed an agreement with the not-for-profit energy provider Wolverine Power Cooperative to restart the plant in September.

“The restart of Palisades offers a practical, long-term solution to electric reliability in our state and aligns with Michigan’s ambitious goals to reduce carbon emissions,” CEO of Wolverine Eric Baker said at the time.

Hinkley Point C delayed, cost estimates hiked

The start of operations for Britain’s Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant has been delayed and overall costs increased, EDF said in a statement.

Electricity production was due to begin June 2027, according to an announcement by EDF in May 2022, while the cost of completion was estimated at £25-£26 billion ($31.4-$32.7 billion) in 2015.

The French utility now sees the plant beginning operations by the end of the decade and has raised the cost estimates to between £31 and £34 billion in comparative 2015 values.

Best-case-scenario sees the project completed and operational by 2029 while the worst-case-scenario has the Unit 1 online in 2031 and an estimated additional cost of around £1 billion, EDF said.

“The cost of civil engineering and the longer duration of the electromechanical phase (and its impact on other work) are the two main reasons for this cost revision,” EDF said in the statement.

The COVID pandemic had caused a 15-month delay to the project, managing director of Hinkley Point C Stuart Crooks said in a video message to staff at the site.

“Like other infrastructure projects, we have found civil construction slower than we hoped and faced inflation, labor and material shortages on top of COVID and Brexit disruption,” Crooks said.

"The good news is that much of that pioneering work to rebuild our industry is done.”

China unveils nuclear battery

Chinese company Betavolt New Energy Technology Co. has developed a miniature atomic energy battery that they say is in the pilot stage ahead of mass production and can generate electricity stably and autonomously for 50 years without charging or maintenance.

The battery combines nickel -63 nuclear isotope decay technology and China's first diamond semiconductor (4th generation semiconductor) module, the company said in a statement.

The company’s first commercially available battery, the BV100, will be 15x15x5 cubic millimeters (about the size of a small coin) with 100 microwatts and a voltage of 3 V.

Betavolt aims to launch a 1W battery in 2025, it said.

The batteries may be used in series and parallel and generate 8.54 joules of energy a day, or 3,153 joules a year, the company said.

“If policies permit, atomic energy batteries can allow a mobile phone to never be charged, and drones that can only fly for 15 minutes can fly continuously,” the company said.

Support for nuclear strong - survey

More than one-and-a-half times as many people support nuclear power than oppose it, according to a new study Public Attitudes toward Clean Energy (PACE) conducted by Savanta and commissioned and analyzed by Radiant Energy Group.

The survey, which polled 20,122 nationally representative respondents across 20 countries in the autumn of 2023, found that while 28% opposed the use of nuclear power, some 46% supported it.

Amongst those that oppose nuclear power, 54% said they support policy to keep existing operating plants open and 17% wish to build more, the survey showed.

A quarter of those surveyed said their respective countries needed to focus on nuclear power compared to a third that preferred large-scale solar farms and just 16% for onshore wind farms.

Globally, 79% of respondents said they were concerned about nuclear safety, of which 40% continue to support its use while 33% oppose it.

China and Russia have the highest levels of support for nuclear energy though they also registered high concerns over nuclear safety, with both countries showing half of those surveyed both support the technology and are concerned about safety.

“Nuclear has long been trapped on the outside of the ESG world looking in. Our report suggests that financial institutions wishing to align themselves with the public’s new attitudes towards nuclear may need to update their standards to include nuclear in the future,” said Managing Director at Radiant Energy Group Mark W. Nelson.

By Reuters Events Nuclear