Xcel: No plans to build new nuclear plants

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Reuters got the story wrong this week when it reported Xcel Energy plans to add capacity by building nuclear power plants. CEO Dick Kelly was quoted saying, “I certainly hope nuclear is part of our answer going forward.” A company spokeswoman, though, says the comments Kelly made at a utility conference Monday in New York were taken out of context.

“We have no plans in the works to build any nuclear plants,” Xcel Energy spokeswoman Mary Sandok tells Minnesota Monitor.

What Kelly was talking about was the need for nuclear power to be part of the nation’s overall energy portfolio, Sandok said. Unlike power plants that burn fossil fuel, nuclear facilities don’t emit large amounts of greenhouse gases. As cutting carbon emissions rises as a priority, nuclear is gaining traction as a lesser-evil alternative to coal and gas.

“We did call Reuters. I don’t know if they plan to do anything, but we objected to the way that they reported that,” Sandok said. “I’m not sure if the reporter understood when he talks about nuclear needing to be part of the nation’s portfolio, it’s a little bit different than being new plants as part of ours.”

Kelly has also said that Xcel Energy is too small to build a nuclear power generator on its own, and that if the company ever did want to pursue an additional nuclear plant it would need to partner with others. He’s consistently said, too, that Xcel has no plans to pursue building new nuclear power plants at this time.

Xcel does plan to expand both its Monticello and Prairie Island nuclear plants, which provide about a quarter of the electricity that’s delivered to customers. In its most recent resource planning report filed with the state in December, Xcel says it’s aiming to extend the life and increase output by 71 megawatts at Monticello and 160 megawatts at Prairie Island.

In 2006, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved a 20-year license renewal for Monticello from 2010 to 2030. Prairie Island’s licenses expire in 2013 and 2014, and Xcel intends to apply for 20-year extensions on both of those reactors, as well, Sandok said.

Getting more use out of the existing nuclear plants falls in line with recommendations from the Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group, which notes in its report that nuclear power is both controversial and important. The group also suggests the Legislature study the potential of building a new nuclear plant in Minnesota that would be online as soon as 2025.

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