United States

United States

Running out of nuclear storage -- Xcel's 1100 MW contingency bid

Giant US utility Xcel Energy in the upper Midwest is soliciting bids for 1100 MW of new generating capacity from all fuel sources. The aim is to determine the cost and what generating resources are available if the utility had to shut down its Prairie Island and Monticello nuclear power plants before the end of their lifetime. A shut down could occur if Xcel runs out of room to store spent fuel on the grounds of the plants. Criticism for not having a contingency plan in place was levelled at the utility earlier this year by Bill Grant of the Izaak Walton League and Michael Noble of Minnesotans for an Energy Efficient Economy.

Giant utility Xcel Energy in the upper Midwest is soliciting bids for 1100 MW of new generating capacity from all fuel sources. The aim is to determine the cost and what generating resources are available if the utility had to shut down its Prairie Island and Monticello nuclear power plants before the end of their lifetime. The plants provide about 30% of the utility's electricity for its Midwest operations. A shut down could occur if Xcel runs out of room to store spent fuel on the grounds of the plants.

Criticism for not having a contingency plan in place was levelled at the utility earlier this year by Bill Grant of the Izaak Walton League and Michael Noble of Minnesotans for an Energy Efficient Economy. That resulted in a recent Minnesota Public Utilities Commission ruling.

The utility says it has enough room to store the nuclear waste through 2007 and 2008, but that it must find alternative storage to continue to operate the plants to the end of their lifetime in 2013 and 2014. Xcel is pressing for action in Congress and suing the Department of Energy for not having a spent fuel depot in place. It is also considering an interim storage site in Utah.

Xcel is asking bidders for 550 MW in 2007 and 550 MW in 2008. Proposals are due in February 2002 and Xcel says it will select a short-listed by August, make a final selection by November and complete power purchase agreements, if it will need to proceed with its contingency plan, by early 2003. With a plan submitted to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in July that deals with the fairness issue when evaluating competitive bids among all fuel types, wind projects will likely be seriously considered. The plan addresses issues that have in the past discriminated against variable generation projects, such as wind, when competing with natural gas and coal generation (Windpower Monthly, September 2001).

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