Xcel Seeks Replacement Power;Spent Fuel May Choke Nukes
LCG, Nov. 14, 2001--Xcel Energy Inc. said yesterday it is seeking bids for 1,100 megawatts of firm capacity to replace power that would be lost if its 1,030 megawatt Prairie Island nuclear power plant in Red Wing, Minn., chokes to death on spent fuel.Prairie Island Unit 1 is licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to operate until 2013 and Unit 2 through 2014, but under Minnesota law, the plant's spent fuel storage capacity is expected to be reached in 2007.The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission ordered Xcel to develop a contingency plan involving requests for proposals for 1,100 megawatts of power. The proposals are due next February 15.Prairie Island stores the used radioactive fuel in a pool and is also authorized to store some spent fuel in steel and concrete dry casks, said Mary Sandok, a company spokeswoman, who added that the state authorized 17 casks of dry storage while the NRC approved 48.The spent fuel problem was though solved in 1982 when the U.S. Congress enacted legislation requiring the Department of Energy to create a permanent repository for the radioactive waste and begin accepting it for storage in January 1998. That program was funded by a one-sixth of one cent per kilowatt-hour surcharge on the electric bills of customers of nuclear utilities.Though the 1982 law has been twice supported by court orders, it has been largely ignored by the DOE, which has spent about half of the $17 billion fund trying to get a nuclear waste dump ready at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.The Yucca Mountain repository is opposed by anti-nuclear activists who want the nation's nuclear power plants to choke on their spent fuel.Xcel said it has urged Congress to act on nuclear fuel storage and has sued the DOE for its failure to accept spent fuel, but has also joined a group of eight large nuclear utilities to develop a temporary 820-acre storage site on the 18,000-acre reservation of the Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians in Skull Valley, Utah.In the meantime, it will look over the replacement power proposals it receives in February and prepare a short list of bidders by next August 1. Final selection of power providers is expected to be made by November 1 of next year and purchase agreements should be in place by early 2003.
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