Well, it is carbon free

The Palasades nuke plant in southwest Michigan was taken off line and closed a couple years ago. Seems a new group, with Federal money in hand, wants to reopen it.


Consumers Power’s other big nuke plant project, 50 years ago, was in Midland. After years of cost overruns and delays, the Midland nuke was abandoned in the 80s. Some of the facilities were reused in a gas fired cogeneration project to provide power to grid as well as power and process steam to the Dow Chemical plant next door.

Decided to take a look at Google satellite view today, and found that the reactor building is still standing. The plant was, iirc, about 80% done when abandoned. One of the reactor heads was sold as it was a drop in replacement for the reactor head at the Davis-Besse plant, which had been damaged by First Energy’s lax maintenance. Wonder what it would cost to complete the Midland nuke and bring it on line now?


As I recall electricity had steady increases in demand from the time of Samuel Insull. That ended after the Arab oil embargo caused much interest in improved efficiency (during the Carter administration).

By the '60s nuclear was the way of the future. Many nuclear plants were under construction. So many that experienced contractors could take on no more. Inexperienced contractors were hired resulting in cost overruns. Then came the realization they were building too much capacity.

Many projects got mothballed or converted to fossil fuels.

The GC in the Midland job was Bechtel. Hardly their first roundup.

The pump seal company I worked for was involved in that job. We received an RPQ for some pressure units. A pressure unit maintains pressure and circulation of a barrier fluid between inner and outer seals in a pump, so the material the pump is pumping cannot get outside the pump if the inner seal fails. One of the requirements of the RFQ was that the company had to guarantee that the pressure units could sit in their crates, in the mud, at the job site, for a couple years, and, when installed, still work perfectly. The pump seal company said “umm…no”.


1 Like

It is probably a good idea to reopen it. If it is safe to reopen.

The cement was poured a long time ago. No CO2 in using it again. Probably not much more radiation in making an older but safe plant operable.

As a guess, it would be cost prohibitive. The Palisades plant wasn’t economically viable, that’s why they closed it. The federal money was allocated to restart it because it is extremely tough, maybe impossible, to meet carbon free targets without it so the current administration is pushing nuclear hard. The state is also providing subsidies to restart it. I read an article recently where Holtec said the power be well above market rates, so there is that.

That isn’t the full story. Even experienced contractors like Bechtel, Sargent & Lundy, Burns & Roe, Stone & Webster, and others could not make these nuclear plants come in on budget or schedule. Some Utilities tried to use their own enegineering & construction to build these plants, but eventually had to get the help of experienced contractors. Also at the time the NRC was still finalizing regulations which required rework. Quality control to nuclear standards caused more rework when contractors made fabrication and construction mistakes.

1 Like

iirc, a utility company in Illinois, which owned two or three nukes, was demanding the state pay them a subsidy to keep the nukes open, otherwise, the company would close the nukes, “killing dozens of jobs”, and creating a power shortage.

Problem in getting CEOs interested in carbon free generation is the costs of doing nothing will be realized when the current CEO is gone, and someone else is in the daddy chair. A carbon tax would be a means of making the future costs current, so the CEO would be interested, but the pushback to anything like a carbon tax is deafening.

As for completing the Midland nuke, I wonder how prohibitive it would be. Most of the construction was done at 1970s and 80s prices. But then regs have changed, so there would undoubtedly be some rework. But, unlike Palisades, Diablo Canyon, and most of the rest, Midland does not have 50 years of wear and tear on it.


One of the issues at Midland was the soil was not compacted properly, and one of the outbuildings started sinking. One of the containment buildings at Diablo Canyon was reportedly built backward.


Palisades became notorious for problems in the 70s and 80s. I have heard wags say “that was the plant where Combustion Engineering learned how not to build a reactor.” I would presume that the initial design problems were eventually resolved. Then it becomes a matter of physical soundness for a now over 50 year old plant.


1 Like

No - the story that I think you are thinking about is the San Onofre vessel placement during construction.

In May 1977, the Bechtel Corporation installed a 420-ton nuclear reactor vessel backwards at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in San Clemente, California. Construction supervisors noticed that a mark on the vessel was pointing north. The mistake didn’t require the vessel to be replaced or moved. However, the incident embarrassed Bechtel.


1987, Consumers Power’s nuclear power plant in Midland, Michigan was converted into the
Midland Cogeneration Venture

(MCV), a natural gas-fired power plant.

The plant was completed in 1990 at a cost of $500 million, almost double its original estimate. The MCV produces 1,560 megawatts of electricity for Consumers and 1.35 million pounds of industrial steam per hour for Dow Chemical. It supplies about 10% of the electricity used in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula


1 Like

The article I read years ago may have said San Onofre. I was a PG&E shareholder, years ago, so was reading about Diablo Canyon. Maybe the article author was trying to talk about this construction fault at Diablo Canyon, and misinterpreted it.

1 Like

Several states subsidize existing nuclear facilities. They have no choice if they want to try to hit their carbon free power targets.

1 Like

Thing is, the carbon-free targets are artificial, a matter of politics, not short term profit and loss. Regine change in DC can eliminate those targets.


I think both errors are correctly documented. They did happen and were fixed one way or another. Thanks for reminding me of the Diablo Canyon error.

They missed an opportunity there.

Agree to the guarantee, but insist on the right to inspect the pressure units before they are installed. Then ship them some junk. When the inspection time rolls around, your inspector will find those units unfit, and new units can be sent.

It’s a win for everyone. The pump seal company gets paid a couple of years before the actual units are delivered. And they look like heroes for honoring the guarantee with no hassle. The customer gets good units that haven’t been sitting outside in the mud for a couple of years.


That would require non-linear thinking on the part of management.


As if management was capable of thinking of anything beyond their next meal–or the current quarter…

1 Like