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Xcel spending $1.8 billion to prolong life of Minnesota nuclear plants

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Minnesota's two nuclear power plants are reaching age 40, but Xcel Energy expects $1.8 billion worth of upgrades will buy them a new lease on life that should last a couple of decades.

The Star Tribune reports that's how much the Minneapolis-based utility plans to sink into its facilities at Prairie Island and Monticello. Xcel's regional vice-president, Laura McCarten tells the newspaper “What we are facing here is a lot of spending to extend life another 20 years.”

Xcel's single biggest investment is the replacement of two steam generators at Prairie Island. That project is a big enough deal that Xcel Energy took the unusual step of inviting some of its neighbors in the Red Wing area into the plant last week to take a look at the 330-ton machines going in. The Red Wing Republican Eagle reports it's the first time in 13 years the plant has opened its doors to the public.

Xcel's investment comes as other utilities around the country are opting to shutter nuclear plants that are getting long in the tooth.

Southern California Edison announced this month it is closing both reactors at San Onofre, which had nine years left on their operating license but were shut down for repairs last year. The Christian Science Monitor reports that move reduces California's nuclear capacity by half and may lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

And that's not the only nuclear facility shutting down. The New York Times reports four plants have had the plug pulled this year, including one in Wisconsin that had permission to operate for another 20 years.

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