New Steam Generators at Prairie Island

Wednesday, January 15, 2014 @ 05:01 PM gHale

After getting two new steam generators, the Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant in Welch, MN, returned to full power early Monday morning, Xcel Energy officials said.

The Unit 2 reactor at the Red Wing plant now produces electricity with two new steam generators, which the company installed during a refueling and maintenance outage that began on Sept. 21.

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Around 1,500 contractors helped plant staff replace two 40-year-old steam generators and one-third of the unit’s fuel. Each of the reactors runs nonstop and undergoing refueling every 18 months.

When both of the 550-megawatt reactors are operating, the plant generates enough electricity to power nearly 1 million homes.

During refueling outages, Xcel purchases energy from the Midcontinent Independent System Operator and other utilities.

Prairie Island has had its issues in the past, in December 2012, the plant received a white warning from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) because of a safety violation involving a radiation detector last December.

Operators at the twin-reactor plant failed to prioritize the repair of a “high-range vent gas radiation detector” found to be out of service at its Unit 1 reactor during an Dec. 18, 2012 inspection, the NRC said.

The detector works to help determine if an incident resulted in the release of radioactive gases and should end up classified as a general or site area emergency, the two highest NRC emergency classifications, according to the NRC.

The plant had alternative methods in place that would have allowed Prairie Island staff to make an emergency determination, but the NRC was not satisfied.

In its color-coded classifications for violations that begin at “green” and run up the ladder to “white,” “yellow” and “red” in order of importance, the NRC classified the incident as white, or having a low to moderate safety significance.

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