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


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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Xcel Energy drops plan to upgrade Prairie Island nuclear power plant

Xcel Energy says spending nearly $240 million to boost the power output at its Prairie Island nuclear plant near Red Wing is no longer a beneficial deal for customers, the Star Tribune reports. The Minneapolis-based utility first raised questions with regulators about the $310 million upgrade in March.

Xcel Energy looks into 'unusual event' at Prairie Island nuclear plant

Officials at the Prairie Island nuclear power plant are investigating what it calls an "unusual event" after a piece of security equipment failed Wednesday afternoon, according to a news release. Xcel Energy said no radioactive material was released during the incident and there is no danger to the public or its workers.

Xcel's chief nuclear officer Koehl resigns

Dennis Koehl, currently the senior vice president and chief nuclear officer of Xcel Energy has been named the CEO of the South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Co. Koehl will leave in mid-September after nearly five years with the Minneapolis-based utility. The Business Journal reports an interim chief nuclear officer, responsible for the company's Prairie Island and Monticello nuclear plants, will be named soon.

Xcel Energy rethinks expansion of Prairie Island nuclear plant

The Minneapolis-based utility is asking Minnesota regulators to confirm the $310 million upgrade will benefit customers. Xcel says the project will take more time to complete and produce less power than originally thought. The company also says generating electricity with natural gas is more financially attractive because prices are at 10 year lows.

Federal regulators order Xcel Energy to make safety improvements at nuclear power plants

The Minneapolis-based utility needs to add more portable generators and pumps at both its Monticello and Prairie Island plants, in case of an emergency. The Pioneer Press reports the new requirements will cost between $25 million and $50 million.