Xcel’s Prairie Island Unit 1 completes refueling outage

Xcel Energy (NYSE:XEL) said Nov. 21 that Unit 1 of the Prairie Island nuclear plant in Minnesota has completed a refueling and maintenance outage that began in mid-October.

Unit 1 is ready to provide enough carbon-free electricity to serve about 500,000 Upper Midwest customers, Xcel Energy said in a news release.

More than 1,600 Xcel Energy employees and specialized contractors logged 95,000 man-hours to install new equipment, conduct key maintenance, and replace about one-third of the nuclear fuel in the reactor. The plant was restarted on Nov. 20 after a month-long planned shutdown.

“Nuclear plants are the backbone of our clean energy plans, providing 24-7 base load electricity for our customers, and the upgrades we make during refueling periods are investments in the future of Prairie Island, the local Red Wing area, and the Upper Midwest as a whole,” said Scott Northard, site vice president at Prairie Island. The company’s nuclear plants comprise a key component of the Xcel Energy clean energy strategy and will help meet Xcel Energy’s goal of reducing carbon emissions by 60% over 2005 levels in the next 15 years, Northard said.

Major projects undertaken to improve plant performance and meet regulatory requirements include:

•Reactor coolant pump replacement. This pump maintains pressure and transfers heat from the reactor for the steam generator, which in turn provides steam to the turbine for electricity generation. The pump replaces equipment original to the plant’s construction in 1973.

•Large motor and pump replacements. Several large motors were replaced during the last month, including feedwater pumps, cooling water pumps, motor generators and others. Many of the motors were original to the plant’s construction.

•DC panel replacement. The panel is a redundant source of electrical power to emergency safety equipment if normal sources of electrical power were lost. Maintaining redundant electrical power is a key regulatory requirement.

The unit has now been refueled 30 times since its completion in 1973.

Xcel’s Northern States Power-Minnesota operates the dual-unit Prairie Island nuclear station in Goodhue County, Minnesota. The two units are pressurized water reactors (PWRs) that together can generate more than 1,100 MW.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.