Minnesota nuclear power plants to increase safety measures

Aaron DuBois

Xcel Energy is planning on spending $20 to $50 million on its two Minnesota nuclear power plants for safety upgrades and studies according to an article by the Star Tribune.

The energy company is buying more backup generators to provide electricity in case an incident like that in Fukushima was ever to happen to the Minnesota plants.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Committee approved the measures last week.

Critics from the National Resource Defense Council are skeptical about the spending saying that it is just a public relations stunt to give the illusion that the industry is taking it seriously.

Xcel owns two power plants in Minnesota: a two-unit plant near Red Wing, 50-miles from the Twin Cities and a one-unit plant at Monticello which is 40-miles from the cities.

Xcel currently has five pumps that will pump water from the Mississippi into the reactor in case of an emergency.

The U.S. nuclear industry has a “flexible coping” strategy in which more expensive items like radioactive water filtration systems are purchased by all the plant owners and are stationed throughout the U.S. in order to be flown in for emergency situations.

One of the problems with the Fukushima plant was that after the tsunami wiped out the back-up generators the plant only had eight hours of battery life to control the temperature. The key batteries for Minnesota’s power plants are currently rated at four hours.