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Prairie Island Unit 1 begins refueling outage

RED WING -- Operators at Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant began a refueling outage on Unit 1 at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, according to Xcel Energy officials.

During the outage, approximately 600 contractors will help plant staff complete maintenance tasks to prepare the unit for its next operating cycle and will replace one-third of the unit's fuel.

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 six weeks. Unit 2 remains at full power.

During refueling outages, Xcel Energy purchases electricity from the Midwest Independent Transmission 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, said Xcel, the plant's owner, in a news release. They run 24 hours a day, seven days per week, except during refueling outages, and they do not produce any greenhouse gas emissions.

When both units are operating, the Prairie Island plant near Red Wing generates enough electricity to power nearly 1 million homes.