The Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant

The Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant did well in a simulated disaster exercise on Aug. 2. 

Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant’s Unit 1 resumed operations Wednesday after employees and contractors finished planned refueling and maintenance projects on the plant.

After operating continuously for the past two years, operators at the Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant began working on projects Oct. 14 on Unit 1 that will help the plant continue its role in providing carbon-free energy for more than a million customers in the Upper Midwest.

The Prairie Island facility plays a key role in Xcel Energy’s plan to reduce carbon emissions 85% in the upper Midwest by 2030, on the path to providing 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050. The refueling took just 25 days and sets the plant up to provide reliable carbon-free energy for our customers for the next two years.

The biennial refueling and maintenance period included fuel replacement, maintenance, inspection and testing activities on Unit 1 that will result in improved equipment and plant reliability. This work will help ensure that Prairie Island continues to provide safe, clean, reliable power and provide economic stimulus, grid reliability and environmental benefits for the region. 

“Operating our nuclear plants efficiently is an important strategy to help meet our industry leading goal to reduce carbon emissions, and these refueling and maintenance periods are some of the most important activities our nuclear teams undertake as they deliver the always-on carbon-free electricity our customers depend on,” said Chris Clark, president, Xcel Energy-Minnesota. “Our nuclear energy plants today generate about half our carbon-free energy for our Upper Midwest customers and provide reliable, clean power, which is a great value and represents a major investment in the region.”

Nuclear plants generally run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and only shut down to refuel the reactor. During this period, operators perform maintenance and construction projects that can only be completed when the plant is not operating.

More than 6,100 work activities were performed by Xcel Energy employees and the contracted workforce. The power plant’s Unit 1 was refueled with enough fuel assemblies to allow the facility to complete another two-year run. 

Additionally, many safety inspections were conducted on the unit’s reactor vessel and turbine generator system. This work brings about 650 contractors from across the country to Prairie Island, totaling more than 70,000 staff hours of work while boosting the local economy.

“It takes extensive planning for these refueling periods to ensure that we execute them safely and effectively,” said Chris Domingos, site vice president, Prairie Island nuclear plant. “The activities we completed support the regional economy while positioning our plant and company to deliver reliable, carbon-free electricity to our customers.” 

Prairie Island is the largest carbon-free energy source in Minnesota. When both nuclear units are operating, the plant generates enough electricity to power nearly one million homes. Each unit operates on a two-year refueling cycle between outages.

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