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Entergy to sell Pilgrim, Palisades to JV decommissioning company

Washington — Entergy's Pilgrim nuclear reactor in Massachusetts and Palisades nuclear reactor in Michigan will be bought and decommissioned decades sooner than previously planned by a joint venture of Holtec International and SNC-Lavalin, Entergy and Holtec International said Wednesday in a joint statement.

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The announcement comes a day after Exelon Generation announced the same joint venture would buy and decommission the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in New Jersey. Exelon announced earlier this year the 670-MW unit is scheduled to shut permanently September 17 rather than by December 2019.

Entergy agreed to sell the 728-MW Pilgrim in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and the 845-MW Palisades in Covert, Michigan, as well as transfer of the reactors' operating licenses, spent fuel, and Nuclear Decommissioning Trusts to the joint venture, the statement said.

"Entergy will receive nominal cash consideration for Pilgrim and Palisades," company spokesman Patrick O'Brien said Wednesday in an email. He declined to elaborate.

The exact value of the Oyster Creek transaction was not disclosed, but Comprehensive Decommissioning International, a joint venture Holtec and SNC-Lavalin formed established to acquire and decommission Oyster Creek said Tuesday in a statement that the contract is "worth hundreds of millions of dollars."

The joint statement released Wednesday said "assuming timely regulatory approvals" of the transfer of Pilgrim's operating license and the decommissioning plan by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, "Holtec expects to initiate prompt decommissioning of Pilgrim in 2020, with the expectation that all major decommissioning work will be completed in [about] eight years."

Pilgrim is scheduled to shut permanently May 30, 2019, Entergy announced in 2016, because of economic and other factors, including the cost of complying with NRC requirements.

Palisades is scheduled to shut May 31, 2022, at the conclusion of a power purchase agreement with Consumers Energy, which buys most of Palisade's output.

Under NRC's Safstor provisions for decommissioning power reactors, licensees have up to 60 years to complete the work and restore the site to so-called greenfield conditions.

"A time line for the decommissioning of Palisades will be developed closer to its shutdown. For both Pilgrim and Palisades, Holtec expects to move all of the spent nuclear fuel out of the spent fuel pools and into dry cask storage within [about] three years of the plants' respective shutdowns," the Wednesday statement said.

Spent fuel stored in dry casks will remain at the Oyster Creek, Pilgrim and Palisades sites, subject to around-the-clock security.

The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 stipulated the Department of Energy would begin disposing utility spent fuel by January 31, 1998. DOE dismantled the Yucca Mountain permanent spent fuel waste depository project in October 2010 after an NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board on June 29, 2010, saying Nevada 's opposition to the proposed disposal facility made the site unworkable. Consortiums seeking to build privately owned interim waste storage facilities remain under NRC review.

"Holtec is finalizing contracts" with CDI "to perform the decommissioning, including the demolition and cleanup of the two plants and sites," it said.

Holten spokeswoman Joy Russell said Wednesday in an interview, "our decommissioning approach will standardize processes, procedures and management structure that will be used across all of these [three] decommissioning projects."

"By performing decommissioning in a safe, but swift, manner we can return the sites to unrestricted use in a more rapid fashion, which is good for communities and the environment," Russell said.

O'Brien said that the future of the 1,067-MW Indian Point-2 and 1,080-MW unit 3 "was not part of those negotiations" with Holtec and SNC-Lavalin. The Buchanan, New York-based units are scheduled to shut permanently April 30, 2020 and April 30.

2021, respectively. "Entergy is reviewing all options for Indian Point after its shutdown, including potential sale," he said.

-- Jim Ostroff, Washington, newsdesk@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Valarie Jackson, valarie.jackson@spglobal.com