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The controversial Palisades Nuclear Plant, located along Lake Michigan near Covert, will close in October 2018.

Consumers Energy announced Thursday it will bring an early end to its 15-year contract signed in 2007 to purchase power from the plant. That spells an end for Palisades — owned and operated by Louisiana-based Entergy — in less than two years from now.

The termination requires regulatory approval.

The move, touted by Consumers as a cost-saver for customers, comes after years of controversy at a plant years past its original expected lifespan.

Brought on-line in the early 1970s, Palisades’ original license was set to expire in 2011. In 2007, however, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted the plant a 20-year extension that would have allowed it to continue operating until 2031, over the objections of many environmental groups.

In 2012, the federal government named Palisades — already one of the oldest nuclear facilities in the country — one of the worst power plants for safety performance. Palisades also has seen repeated closures for a variety of maintenance issues.

On Thursday, Consumer officials issued a statement centering on the benefits of the move. That includes an estimated $172 million in savings for customers.

“We have a comprehensive plan to ensure ongoing reliability and affordability for our 1.8 million electric customers,” Consumers’ President Patti Poppe said in a press release.

The move will affect 600 employees.

Dan Bishop, a spokesman for Consumers Energy, said the company is looking at taking on, over time, transfers of up to 180 of Entergy’s 600 employees currently a Palisades.

Early Thursday, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s office issued a statement on the potential impacts of the closure.

“I’m certain the Michigan Public Service Commission will look at this very closely and examine the implications for the reliability and affordability of electricity in Michigan, as well as protection of the environment,” Snyder’s statement read. “Palisades is a major employer and economic engine for the region, so the continued operation of the plant through 2018 and the proposed community contributions would be vital. 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.”

A spokesperson for Entergy could not be reached early Thursday.

JLynch@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2034

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