Xcel Energy faces more big investments to keep its nuclear units running

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Xcel Energy faces more big investments to keep its nuclear units running

March 19, 2016

The high cost of upgrading 40-year-old nuclear reactors is confronting Xcel Energy again.

Investments in the Prairie Island nuclear power plant in Red Wing, Minn., are projected to cost more than expected — $487 million by 2020, with more spending needed in the next decade.

It’s not a replay of cost overruns at Xcel’s other reactor in Monticello, Minn. That 2013 surprise, which state regulators blamed on imprudent management, led Xcel to write off $125 million last year.

This time, Xcel executives are giving advance warning of rising costs to upgrade its two Prairie Island reactors. The investment will keep the units running safely until the early 2030s, Xcel officials said, and will largely be offset by lower maintenance expenses in years ahead.

“We learned from what happened at Monticello,” Kevin Davison, Xcel’s site vice president at Prairie Island, said in an interview at the plant. “ … We have got to be better at making sure we totally understand what we want to do, exactly how we are going to do it and be very careful in the cost considerations.”

Yet, in a fresh surprise, Xcel also has offered to study shutting down Prairie Island years before the reactors’ operating licenses expire in 2033-34. Xcel isn’t pushing early retirement, which would accelerate the costly job of decommissioning. It’s an option being presented to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, which regulates Xcel’s rates and investments.

SOURCE:  Star Tribune


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