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Xcel ordered to upgrade flood plan at Monticello nuclear plant

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Federal regulators say Xcel Energy is unprepared for a flooding disaster at its Monticello nuclear power plant on the bank of the Mississippi River.

The Star Tribune reports the Nuclear Regulatory Commission notified the Minneapolis-based utility that its current flood plan failed to maintain adequate protection measures.

The federal agency said Xcel’s flood-fighting efforts could not complete dikes and other measures necessary in the 12 day requirement. The NRC has increased emphasis on natural disaster preparedness since the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan.

The infraction was classified as having “substantial safety significance" and ranked “yellow,’’ which is one level short of the most serious classification, "red," on the NRC's color-coded, four-step system for ranking inspection results.

Tim O’Connor, chief nuclear officer for Xcel Energy, emailed the following statement to Monticello Times:

“Safety and security at our nuclear generating plants are top priorities for Xcel Energy, and at no time was the public in any danger. In response to the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, Xcel Energy and the NRC have reassessed the safety of our plants resulting in an even higher level of safety expectations. Plant officials annually assess the potential for flooding, including monitoring river water levels and snow cover, and they extensively plan for potential floods based on those predictions. Flood berm wall construction procedures for the “worst case” flood scenario were in place, and the site had contracts with local suppliers for materials should those have been needed to protect the Monticello plant. The plant now has procured those flood berm materials and has placed them on site for improved readiness for this worst case scenario. Because the materials are on site the potential safety concern has been resolved.”

Xcel's Monticello facility is among a third of U.S. nuclear power plants ordered last week to install or modify vents that would reduce the risk of an explosive accident created by trapped hydrogen. The NRC issued the order to owners of 31 nuclear plants.

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