Press Release

Prairie Island Unit 1 completes 30th refueling and equipment upgrade

More than 1,500 workers performed maintenance and replaced one-third of nuclear fuel in 550 megawatt unit

Red Wing, Minn.—Nov. 21, 2016—The Prairie Island Nuclear Plant’s Unit 1 is refueled and ready to provide enough carbon-free electricity to serve about 500,000 Upper Midwest customers after completing its recent refueling and maintenance activities. More than 1,600 Xcel Energy employees and specialized contractors logged 95,000 man-hours to install new equipment, conduct key maintenance, and replace about one-third of the nuclear fuel in the reactor. The plant was restarted on Nov. 20 after a month-long planned shutdown.

“Nuclear plants are the backbone of our clean energy plans, providing 24-7 base load electricity for our customers, and the upgrades we make during refueling periods are investments in the future of Prairie Island, the local Red Wing area, and the Upper Midwest as a whole,” said Scott Northard, site vice president, Prairie Island Nuclear Plant, Xcel Energy. “The reliable, carbon-free energy from our nuclear plants is a key component of the Xcel Energy clean energy strategy and will help meet our goal of reducing carbon emissions by 60 percent over 2005 levels in the next 15 years.”

Major projects undertaken to improve plant performance and meet regulatory requirements include:

  • Reactor coolant pump replacement. This pump maintains pressure and transfers heat from the reactor for the steam generator, which in turn provides steam to the turbine for electricity generation. The pump replaces equipment original to the plant’s construction in 1973.
  • Large motor and pump replacements. Several large motors were replaced during the last month, including feedwater pumps, cooling water pumps, motor generators and others. Many of the motors were original to the plant’s construction.
  • DC panel replacement. The panel is a redundant source of electrical power to emergency safety equipment if normal sources of electrical power were lost. Maintaining redundant electrical power is a key regulatory requirement.

“The work our team performed will enable the plant to continue providing reliable electricity for the next two years, providing significant value to our customers who depend on the reliable, affordable electricity we generate, and the local community that helps support our plant,” said Northard. “Hundreds of contract employees from around the country spent a month in the Red Wing area during the refueling shut down, providing a significant boost to local businesses.”

Prairie Island Refueling—By the Numbers

  • 30—the number of times Prairie Island Unit 1 has been refueled since its completion in 1973.
  • 23—the number of months the unit can now run until the next refueling.
  • 95,000 ‘man-hours’ worked by over 1,500 specialized workers—both Xcel Energy employees and contract specialists.
  • 20—the number of new homes that could be built with 95,000 hours of work.
  • 3 million—number of centimeter-long fuel pellets replaced during this year’s refueling.
  • 14,700—number of railcars full of coal to match the energy in those 3 million pellets.

About Xcel Energy

Xcel Energy (NYSE: XEL) provides the energy that powers millions of homes and businesses across eight Western and Midwestern states. Headquartered in Minneapolis, the company is an industry leader in responsibly reducing carbon emissions and producing and delivering clean energy solutions from a variety of renewable sources at competitive prices. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.