RED WING, Minn. – Operators at Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant began a refueling outage on Unit 2 at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.
During the outage, approximately 1,500 contractors will help plant staff install two new steam generators, in addition to replacing one-third of the unit’s fuel and performing other maintenance tasks to prepare Unit 2 for its next operating cycle.
The steam generator replacement project is one of the significant investments Xcel Energy is making in its nuclear plants to ensure continued safe, reliable, carbon-free electricity generation for its customers for the next 20 years.
Each of the two 550-megawatt reactors at Prairie Island is refueled approximately once every 18 months, and refueling outages generally last from four to eight weeks. Due to the steam generator replacement project, this outage will last a few weeks longer. The two steam generators on Unit 1, which remains at full power, were replaced in 2004.
During refueling outages, Xcel Energy purchases electricity from the Midwest Independent System Operator or other utilities or increases electricity production at its other generating plants to ensure an adequate power supply for its customers.
Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island and Monticello nuclear generating plants are among the company’s lowest-cost sources of generation on a per megawatt-hour basis. They run 24 hours a day, seven days per week, except during refueling outages.
When both units are operating, the Prairie Island plant near Red Wing generates enough electricity to power nearly 1 million homes.