Boosting Monticello

19 February 2008

The Monticello nuclear power plant in Minnesota, USA could have its output boosted by 10% - some 71 MWe - if owners Xcel are granted permission.


Monticello (Image: NMC)
Monticello is a 600 MWe boiling water reactor which has been in operation since 1970. Owners Xcel energy have a license from the Nuclear Regultory Commission (NRC) to operate the unit until 2030, after a 2006 decision to extend the license by 20 years.


The plant provides about 10% of the power required by Xcel's subsidiary, Northern States Power Minnesota.


Dave Sparby, acting president and CEO of Northern States said, "Our analysis shows that adding capacity at Monticello is a very cost-effective option for meeting customers' increasing demand for electricity while helping us accomplish the state's environmental objectives for carbon reductions. It also enhances our fuel diversity, which provides a valuable hedge on price risks and potential carbon regulation costs."


The procedure Xcel must follow is to submit an application for a Certificate of Need for the new nuclear capacity with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. With state permission, and approval from the NRC, Xcel could then begin the project, priced at between $100 million and $135 million. This compares favourably to costs of $170 million to $515 million for natural gas, coal and biomass alternatives, Xcel said.


Xcel said the project would involve increasing the power of the reactor to produce steam, and also upgrading "equipment that converts the steam into electricity." In a boiling water reactor this would logically translate into the installation of a new steam turbine.


Xcel also plans to extend the operating license of its Prairie Island nuclear power plant, subject to NRC approval. The company is to apply for a Certificate of Need for a used nulcear fuel dry storage facility for this extra period of operation in the first half of this year.