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Outage fuels local economy

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Hundreds of extra workers are flooding the area as the refueling outage at Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island nuclear plant gets under way.

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Work at Unit 2 began at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, according to Xcel.

During the outage about 1,500 contractors will help plant staff install two new steam generators as well as replace a third of the unit’s fuel and perform other maintenance.

The steam generator replacement is extending the outage, which is expected to last a few weeks longer than the typical four to eight weeks, according to Xcel.

That influx of personnel — and potential temporary residents — is a “great economic engine for our community,” Red Wing Chamber of Commerce President Patty Brown said. “It’ll have a very positive impact on area businesses.”

For example, hotels and rental housing are quickly filling, she said. Restaurants and stores also likely will see more business during the outage.

“They’re basically living here in our city for three to four months,” Brown said of the contractors.

In the months leading up to the outage, the chamber has worked to find housing for the hundreds of people coming to work at the plant. There are still personnel who need rooms, she added.

The goal is to keep the visiting workers, who come from across the country, near Red Wing and not commuting from the Twin Cities or the south, she said.

“We saw it as an opportunity to give our businesses an extra boost during this time of the year,” Brown said.

Outage employees also received Red Wing Guest Passes, maps, phone books and other informational materials.

Each of the two 550-megawatt reactors at Prairie Island is refueled about every 18 months. Unit 1 remains at full power during Unit 2’s outage.

During refueling outages, Xcel Energy purchases electricity from the Midwest Independent System Operator or other utilities or increases electricity production at its other generating plants to ensure an adequate power supply for customers, the company said.

Have a room?

The Red Wing chamber is still looking for available housing for outage personnel and is asking anyone with rooms, apartments, houses or other space for rent to contact the office at 651-388-4719.

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Danielle Killey
Danielle Killey is the city reporter for the Republican Eagle, where she has worked since 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a journalism degree.
(651) 301-7877
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