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Xcel seeks to renew nuclear licenses

RED WING, Minn. -- Xcel Energy's board of directors will seek renewal of Prairie Island nuclear plant's two operating licenses, the company announced here Thursday.

RED WING, Minn. -- Xcel Energy's board of directors will seek renewal of Prairie Island nuclear plant's two operating licenses, the company announced here Thursday.

The process begins with a plant assessment, and considerable work will follow before the company files applications two or three years from now, said Jim Alders, manager of regulatory projects.

Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission will have a say in extending the licenses 20 years. The licenses for Units 1 and 2 expire in 2013 and 2014.

The Prairie Island plant provides power for Xcel customers in Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

Xcel also is proceeding with relicensing of its single reactor in Monticello. The 600-megawatt plant's 40-year license expires in 2010. Xcel will file a certificate this fall seeking dry-cask storage of spent fuel, and file a license extension application next year with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission

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Prairie Island already has dry-cask storage, which the Legislature authorized after a contentious debate in 1994. Alders said he doesn't know if discussion will be as heated this time.

"Clearly there's going to be a debate about nuclear power in our resources mix in Minnesota," he said.

"Our analysis indicates that the cost of electricity to our customers will be a lot cheaper ... if nuclear power continues."

One of the sticking points for some opponents is the growing on-site storage of radioactive spent fuel rods. Prairie Island Tribal Council, for instance, has reluctantly supported keeping the neighboring nuclear plant operating in exchange for compensation to address health and safety needs. Tribal leaders were not available for comment.

Jacobson is editor of the Red Wing Republican Eagle, a Forum Communications newspaper

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