The Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant resumed operations Nov. 20 after employees and contractors finished refueling and maintenance projects on the plant's Unit 2. This was the plant's 30th refueling in its 44 years of operation, and the work involved nearly 600 plant workers and about 1,000 contract specialists from around the country. The refueling was also an economic boost for the region as contractors stayed in local hotels, visited restaurants, and spent locally on goods and services.
During the refueling outage, maintenance was performed on plant equipment and nuclear fuel was replaced to allow Unit 2 to run another two years before refueling is needed, enabling 1,150 megawatts of reliable, carbon-free electricity to be delivered to customers.
Employees spent 80,000 work hours completing over 7,000 jobs that ranged from maintaining and replacing equipment to completing projects that cannot be done while the plant is running. The power plant was refueled by replacing more than 4 million fuel pellets arranged into 48 fuel assemblies within the reactor core, about one-third of the plant's total fuel. Each fuel pellet contains as much energy as a barrel of oil.
Prairie Island is the largest carbon-free energy source in Minnesota. When both nuclear units are operating, the plant generates enough electricity to power nearly 1 million homes. Each unit operates on a two-year refueling cycle between outages.