COVERT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — An energy company announced plans Thursday to permanently close the Palisades nuclear power plant in southwestern Michigan in 2018, which could mean hundreds of job cuts for a major employer in the region if regulators approve the closure.
New Orleans-based Entergy Corp. and Michigan-based utility, Consumers Energy, said they've agreed to end a power purchase agreement for the plant that year. They said it will save Consumers' customers as much as $172 million from 2018 to 2022 and affect about 600 employees.
If ending the purchase agreement is approved by regulators, Entergy said it plans to close the plant Oct. 1, 2018. An earlier agreement committed Consumers to purchase nearly all of the power that Palisades generates through April 2022.
"We determined that a shutdown in 2018 is prudent when comparing the transaction to the business risks of continued operation," Leo Denault, Entergy's chairman and CEO, said in a statement.
Entergy said it could offer new positions to up to 180 of the affected employees at the Palisades plant.
Gov. Rick Snyder said he plans to direct the Michigan Agency for Energy, the Michigan Department of Treasury, Michigan Economic Development Corp. and others to help prepare the area for the possible shutdown.
"We need to make sure we use the next two years to wisely plan the use of state and local resources to adapt to whatever decision is made," he said in a statement.
Under Entergy's current plan, Palisades would be refueled as scheduled in the spring and operate through the end of the fuel cycle. As part of the agreement, Consumers Energy also will pay Entergy $172 million to end the power purchase agreement and help Entergy transition to decommissioning the plant.
Entergy and the Consumers Energy Foundation plan to provide a total of $10 million over several years in economic development funding for southwestern Michigan as part of an effort to ease the economic effects of the closure.
The plant is in Van Buren County's Covert Township, along Lake Michigan. It started generating electricity in 1971 and can produce enough power for more than 800,000 homes. Consumers Energy is part of Jackson-based CMS Energy Corp.