Prairie Island Nuclear Power Plant

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Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant
PrairieIslandPlant.jpg
Prairie Island Nuclear Power Plant is located in Minnesota
Prairie Island Nuclear Power Plant
Location of Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant
Country United States
Location Red Wing, Minnesota
Coordinates 44°37′18″N 92°37′59″W / 44.62167°N 92.63306°W / 44.62167; -92.63306Coordinates: 44°37′18″N 92°37′59″W / 44.62167°N 92.63306°W / 44.62167; -92.63306
Status Operational
Commission date Unit 1: December 16, 1973
Unit 2: December 21, 1974
Owner(s) Xcel Energy
Nuclear power station
Reactor type pressurized water reactor
Power generation
Units operational 2 x 548 MW
Annual generation 8,914 GWh
Website
Energy - Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant

The Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant is an electricity-generating facility located in Red Wing, Minnesota along the Mississippi River, adjacent to the Prairie Island Indian Community reservation. The nuclear power plant, which began operating in 1973, has two nuclear reactors (pressurized water reactors) manufactured by Westinghouse that produce a total 1,076 megawatts of power. Units 1 and 2 are licensed to operate through 2033 and 2034, respectively.

The plant is owned by Northern States Power Company (NSP), a subsidiary of Xcel Energy, and is operated by Xcel Energy.

Prairie Island is one of two nuclear power plants in Minnesota (the other being Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant in Monticello, MN) and has proven to be the more controversial due to the storage of nuclear waste in large steel casks on-site, an area which is a floodplain of the Mississippi.

In April 2008, Xcel requested that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) renew the licenses of both reactors, extending them for an additional twenty years. The license renewals were approved in June 2011.[1][2]

The company has also requested the use of a similar storage system at its Monticello plant, which is currently licensed through 2030.

In May 2006 repair workers at the plant were exposed to very low levels of radiation due to inhalation of radioactive iodine-131 (131I) gas. The gas leaked from the steam generators, which were opened for inspection. 131I gas is normally removed by means of a carbon-based filter; in this case the filter had developed a small leak. The NRC deemed this event to be of very low safety significance and notes that it did not result in any overdose.[3]

Surrounding population[edit]

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission defines two emergency planning zones around nuclear power plants: a plume exposure pathway zone with a radius of 10 miles (16 km), concerned primarily with exposure to, and inhalation of, airborne radioactive contamination, and an ingestion pathway zone of about 50 miles (80 km), concerned primarily with ingestion of food and liquid contaminated by radioactivity.[4]

The 2010 U.S. population within 10 miles (16 km) of Prairie Island was 27,996, an increase of 4.6 percent in a decade, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data for msnbc.com. The 2010 U.S. population within 50 miles (80 km) was 2,945,237, an increase of 7.8 percent since 2000. Cities within 50 miles include Minneapolis (39 miles to city center) and St. Paul (32 miles to city center).[5]

Spent fuel storage[edit]

NSP had initially intended to send radioactive waste to a storage facility operated by the United States federal government, but no such site is yet open for use (the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository is under construction, but following heavy opposition is no longer considered an option by the Obama Administration). In 1991, the company requested permission from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to eventually store waste in 48 dry casks on the site. Opposition by environmentalists and the neighboring Prairie Island tribe led the Minnesota Legislature to decrease the number of allowed casks to 17, enough to keep the plant operating through approximately 2003.

Eventually, those casks filled, and Xcel Energy requested that the limit be expanded beyond 17 casks. The legislature granted the request, but required the company to make greater use of renewable energy such as wind power and to pay the local Indian community up to $2.25 million per year to help with evacuation improvements and the acquisition and development of new land and to help pay for a health study and emergency management activities.

Steam Generator Replacement[edit]

Operators at Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant began a refueling outage on Unit 2 at 12:01 a.m. 9/23/2013. In addition to refueling the reactor, an expanded workforce replaced the unit's two steam generators.[6] Unit 2 was expected to come back online within eight weeks; however, it did not resume operation until January 13, 2014. At 2 AM on January 14th, Unit 2 reached 100% power output.[7]

Seismic risk[edit]

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's estimate of the risk each year of an earthquake intense enough to cause core damage to the reactor at Prairie Island was 1 in 333,333, according to an NRC study published in August 2010.[8][9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]