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Performance problems at nuclear plant focus of upcoming meeting

Efforts at the Prairie Island nuclear facility to correct human performance problems will be the focus of an upcoming meeting in Red Wing between plant officials and Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff.

The public meeting will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Red Wing Public Library. NRC staff will be available to answer questions after the business portion of the meeting.

The NRC flagged the plant with a number of "cross cutting" human performance issues in 2009 but has noted improvements at the site since then.

Cross cutting issues involve a variety of behaviors -- such as the failure to follow accepted safety procedures -- that are of concern to the agency, but they aren't in violation of its requirements.

Despite improvements, the "cross cutting" designation will remain with the plant until agency officials are satisfied that the progress is permanent, according to NRC spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng.

She said the meeting in Red Wing will allow plant officials to update the agency and the public on its efforts to improve human performance and basic procedures at the facility.

"It will be a chance for them to report where they think they are with their efforts," she said.

In a Xcel Energy news release issued Thursday, Prairie Island nuclear plant site Vice President Mark Schimmel noted improvements at the plant, but he said that continuing to make human performance better was a "high priority."

"We appreciate the opportunity to update the NRC and the public on the improvements we've made in the area of human performance and what remains to be accomplished," Schimmel said in the release.