Xcel Energy submits key report on Monticello nuclear plant upgrades

Upgrades to Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant will benefit customers and were completed at a cost consistent with the experience of other nuclear plants across the country, according to a report filed today by Xcel Energy.

The company submitted the report to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to facilitate the commission’s review of the project. The report cites evolving federal regulatory standards and schedules, higher installation costs and a broader project scope than originally anticipated as reasons for cost increases above the original estimate.

The initial project estimate in 2008 was $320 million, and the final cost as of Aug. 31 is $665 million.

“The upgrade allows increased power output, supports safe and reliable operations and delivers low-cost, round-the-clock energy through 2030,” stated Dave Sparby, president and CEO of Northern States Power Co.-Minnesota, in a news release issued Friday afternoon.

“The Monticello plant supplies about 10 percent of our customers’ electricity needs with carbon-free energy at a time of increasing regulation of power plant emissions. Continued operation of the Monticello plant at a higher output will provide both important environmental protection and a valuable hedge to customers’ long-term costs.”

The Monticello life-extension/power upgrade project was a highly complex undertaking that in many ways was more complicated than the original plant construction. The initiative, which dates from 2003, replaced hundreds of pieces of equipment, required thousands of workers between 2009 through 2013 and resulted in a largely rebuilt plant.

“Our top priority throughout this project was the safety of our workers, customers and surrounding communities,” stated Tim O’Connor, senior vice president and chief nuclear officer. “The plant now is positioned to continue providing 600 megawatts of power through 2030 and will provide an additional 71 megawatts after approval from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

O’Connor added: “Completing the project took longer and cost more than we anticipated, but it was essential it be done right, and we believe we made reasonable decisions along the way. Experience at other plants across the country with comparable projects demonstrates that our experience was not unique.”

Xcel Energy officials expect this filing will initiate a review process over the course of the next several months.

“We appreciate this opportunity to provide substantial information to assist the commission’s review of this project,” Sparby stated in the news release. “We look forward to working with stakeholders to assist their review.”