[quote]The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has cited Xcel Energy for a safety problem involving battery chargers for its Unit 1 reactor at the Prairie Island nuclear plant.
The devices charge batteries that provide backup power for safety equipment. Under certain conditions, the old chargers could lock up. They’ve since been replaced.[/quote]
NRC staff rated the violation as “white” on a color-coded scale, meaning low to moderate safety significance. Xcel Energy had argued for a “green,” rating, meaning very low significance.
Both reactors at Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island nuclear power plant in Minnesota have been granted 20 year licence extensions by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) as of June 2011.
One might question the relicensing of an nuclear power station with known faults, and which only 2 months after re-licensing would be cited for safety problems.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has rejected claims that Xcel Energy’s safety record is poor enough that the life of the plant should not be extended.
During 2010, Xcel was under special scrutiny by the NRC because of a pattern of human errors that indicated a problem with safety awareness. Xcel worked hard throughout the year, reducing its infractions from 30 in 2009 to 15 in 2010.
Many residents inquired about the release of materials during normal operation at the power plant after the Fukushima disaster.
The answer came from Jack Giessner, who said some of the emissions are more-or-less continuous, but the radiation also is continuously monitored and must stay below certain levels. Periodically Xcel takes samples in a prescribed area around the plant.
“The fact that we’re not sampling 10, 20 miles out is not in the framework,” he said.
Phil Mahowald, an attorney, said Xcel has scrambled recently to fix long-standing problems. “We identified examples of deficiencies that had either been existing since the plant first started operating,” Mahowald said. He said problems identified as long as 25 years ago, or five years ago “were just now being addressed in these last couple of years.”
“The federal government is breaking its promise to remove the spent nuclear fuel from Prairie Island,” Mahowald said. “That’s an ongoing problem but unfortunately in the narrow scope of license renewal you can’t even consider the issues and concerns regarding spent fuel.”
Xcel plans to invest more than half a billion dollars to prepare Prairie Island to operate for another 20 years. The company relies on the plant for one-fifth of the electricity it sells in Minnesota and nearby states
The NRC has issued license extensions for many of the nation’s nuclear power plants. So far it has not rejected any of those applications.
NSP had initially intended to send radioactive waste to a storage facility operated by the United States federal government, but no such site is yet open for use (the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository is under construction, but following heavy opposition is no longer considered an option by the Obama Administration). In 1991, the company requested permission from theMinnesota Public Utilities Commission to eventually store waste in 48 dry casks on the site. Opposition by environmentalists and the neighboring Prairie Island tribe led the Minnesota Legislature to decrease the number of allowed casks to 17, enough to keep the plant operating through approximately 2003.