Once Unthinkable Nuclear Plant Revival Is a Reality in US Shift

A month after the US offered $1.5 billion to restart one shuttered nuclear power plant, there’s a growing sense among officials in the industry and government that it may not be the last.

“There are a couple of nuclear power plants that we probably should, and can, turn back on,” said Jigar Shah, director of the US Energy Department’s Loan Programs Office.

Shah’s office in March approved a loan to Holtec International Corp. to reopen the Palisades nuclear plant in Michigan. The company bought the facility when it closed in 2022, planning to decommission it. But officials including Governor Gretchen Whitmer almost immediately began calling for it to reopen, and Holtec has now shifted gears, planning for it to start producing power again in late 2025. That may spur other companies to follow suit.

“A lot of the other players that have a nuclear power plant that has recently shut down and could be turned back on are gaining that confidence to try,” said Shah in an interview. He declined to name specific plants.

It’s a sign of how much the conversation around nuclear power’s future has changed, as the fight against global warming intensifies. While many environmentalists remain fiercely opposed to nuclear plants and their radioactive waste, others now see them as a way to produce large amounts of power without spewing greenhouse gases. California officials recently decided to extend by five years the life of the state’s last nuclear plant, which had been scheduled to shut down in 2025, and the facility’s owner says it’s interested in keeping the plant running longer.

Aaron Sprecher