Prairie Island plant back to full powerPrairie Island nuclear plant concluded what officials called a successful refueling and maintenance outage this week.
By: Danielle Killey, The Republican Eagle
Prairie Island nuclear plant concluded what officials called a successful refueling and maintenance outage this week.
Unit 1 returned to full power early Thursday morning, putting the plant back on line after the regularly scheduled outage.
Estimated to last about four to five weeks, this year's outage - which started April 29 - spanned nearly seven. It was longer than expected because crews "addressed some items that surfaced during the outage immediately, rather than scheduling them for the next refueling outage," site Vice President Mark Schimmel said, but he did not go into further detail.
During the outage, Unit 2 temporarily shut down during an early May thunderstorm. There were no injuries and no damage to the plant, and the unit was back up and running by the next day.
Schimmel told locals at Xcel's community breakfast earlier this week that the plant met performance and safety goals during the refueling and that radiation exposure was the least it's ever been.
"Among the reasons it was so low was better planning of jobs and no steam generator work," Schimmel said. He added the performance was in the top quartile among all 104 U.S. nuclear plants.
Each of the two 550-megawatt reactors is refueled about every 18 months, requiring an outage, Xcel Energy officials said. Crews prepare the unit for its next cycle, and replaced one-third of Unit 1's fuel this year.
Xcel purchases its electricity during the outage and increases production at its other generating plants.
On top of refueling, Xcel also uses the outage to do maintenance work and minor modifications on other parts of the plant that can't be worked on while the plant is online.
Work during the refueling brought in about 600 extra workers. Schimmel said he thinks the majority of the money spent by those workers stayed local.
He also said at the breakfast that he expects no problems with the plant's relicensing, and said he anticipates hearing from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by the end of the month that the plant can operate another 20 years. He plans to travel to Washington, D.C., to pick up the license himself.
The current licenses expire in 2013 and 2014.
In the coming years, outages could be longer and more extended as the plant plans to uprate - increasing the generating power of both the plant's units - officials said.