Prairie Island Nuclear Plant will start refueling soonMinnesota News
-- Prairie Island nuclear plant is gearing up for another refueling outage. Plant officials have said the outage is set to begin sometime between now and the end of the month. Xcel Energy will send out an announcement when the plant goes offline.
By: Sarah Gorvin - Red Wing Republican-Eagle, Pierce County Herald
RED WING - Prairie Island nuclear plant is gearing up for another refueling outage. Plant officials have said the outage is set to begin sometime between now and the end of the month. Xcel Energy will send out an announcement when the plant goes offline.
Mary Sandok, spokeswoman for Xcel, said the outage is "routine."
"We have to do these (refueling) outages every 18 months," she said.
During the outage, one of the plant's two reactors will be shut down. About a third of the 121 fuel assemblies - the parts that hold the actual fuel rods - in the reactor are replaced.
In addition to the refueling, Xcel also takes the opportunity to do maintenance work and minor modifications on other parts of the plant that can't be worked on while the plant is online.
This will bring an additional 600 workers to the plant, nearly doubling the plant's staff of about 750.
"When we have an outage, it's a lot busier than when its operating," Sandok said.
Though nuclear specialists do the actual refueling work, other additional workers are not necessarily in the nuclear field, plant Vice President Mark Schimmel said.
Instead, they come from across the building trade and include welders, pipe-fitters and electricians, he said. Some of these workers come from across the globe to work at the plant during the outage. Others are Red Wing residents.
Even though the plant itself will be a hub of activity during the refueling, Xcel customers won't notice a difference in their power, Sandok said.
"It's not going to be affecting anybody other than the people who are working there. (Customers) would not even know that we have the plant down other than we tell them we do," she said. "Their lights won't even flicker."
The outage will last between four and five weeks. This year's outage will be very similar in length and scope to past outages, Sandok said. In the coming years - pending the company's license renewal with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission - outages may be longer and more extended.
A second announcement will be sent out when the plant is back online.