Legislative and Energy Policy Update by James Buchen, WUI Executive Director

James Buchen, WUI Executive Director

The Wisconsin Legislature is
moving at a frenzied pace to
wrap up the 2015-16 session.
They were originally scheduled
to adjourn in April but the
leadership has indicated they
plan to take final action on
pending bills by the end of
February.  As a result things
are moving quickly by
legislative standards with as
many as a dozen hearings a
day on 40 or more bills.

 

There has been relatively little by way of energy policy
discussed in the Capitol this session. The utilities have
pursued a number of minor policy changes such as
legislation that would allow utility vehicles to exceed
seasonal weight limits on highways when responding to
a power outage and a bill that would extend utility aid
payments to counties and municipalities for 5 years, after
a property tax exempt generating facility is shut down.
There was little opposition to these measures and they
passed both houses and were signed into law by the
Governor.

One issue that has received more attention this session
is a bill that would repeal the virtual moratorium on the
construction of nuclear power plants in Wisconsin. With
concerns over global warming and carbon dioxide emissions
from coal fired power plants growing, there is renewed
interest in nuclear power as a zero emission option.  While
no company has proposed building a nuclear facility in
Wisconsin, passage of this bill would eliminate one legal
hurdle, if such a proposal emerged in the future. The bill
passed the State Assembly in January and is awaiting a
vote in the State Senate.  Perhaps the biggest energy policy
issues facing Wisconsin, as well as the rest of the country,
is implementation of the Federal Clean Power Plan, which
requires Wisconsin utilities to reduce carbon dioxide
emissions by 41 percent by the year 2030. Carbon dioxide
is a natural by-product of burning fossil fuels.  Utility CO2
emissions in 2012 amounted to 1996 lbs. per megawatt
hour of power generation.  As a result, achieving reductions
of this magnitude will be a daunting task.

Under the federal regulation the specific plans on how to
achieve reductions of this magnitude is left to the states.
Wisconsin utilities are looking to the Department of Natural
Resources to develop a plan so they can begin their planning
process to achieve compliance by the various deadlines in
the federal rule. The rule has triggered lawsuits from the
various states and could be affected by the outcome of the
Presidential election. This promises to remain a contentious
energy policy issue in the years ahead.

Prairie Island Unit 1 Returns To Full Power

Prairie Island Unit 1 has returned to full power after the
reactor was safely shut down due to the failure of a motor
in the condensate and feedwater system, a nonradioactive
fluid system.  The defective motor has been removed from
service and the plant has been returned to service.

The Prairie Island nuclear plant is 28 miles southeast of
Minneapolis-St. Paul, about six miles northwest of Red
Wing and just across the Mississippi from Wisconsin.
The plant’s two pressurized water reactors generate 1,076
megawatts ofelectricity, enough to power nearly 1 million
homes. Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy owns and
operates the plant.

NRC ISSUES REPORT CARDS ON WISCONSIN & MINNESOTA NUKE PLANTS

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued its
annual report cards on the nation’s 100 commercial
nuclear power plants, and it found room for
improvement at two reactors in Minnesota and one
in Wisconsin. Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island Unit 2 on
the Mississippi River near Red Wing in Minnesota
was assessed as needing to resolve one or more
items of “low safety significance.” According to the
NRC, it will give the reactor additional inspections
and attention to follow up on corrective actions there.
The NRC says the NextEra Energy Resources Point
Beach plant on Lake Michigan near Manitowoc,
Wisconsin was rated one category lower with a
“degraded level of performance.”

Xcel Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant Returns to Service

Operators at Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant have returned the plant to service after repairing a heat exchanger in the reactor coolant system and completing other maintenance. Operators safely shut the plant down January 17th after determining the heat exchanger needed repairs. The Monticello plant is about 40 miles northwest of Minneapolis.

A LONG TRIP FOR NEW STEAM GENERATORS

AT  XCEL’S PRAIRIE ISLAND NUCLEAR PLANT

The new steam generators make their way to the Red Wing,
Minnesota power plant from France where they were fabricated.

 

New steam generators for Prairie Island Nuclear Generating
Station’s Unit Two have made a long voyage across the
Atlantic Ocean and up the Mississippi River to the plant
near Red Wing, Minnesota. The two replacement generators
were fabricated in Chalon St. Marcel, France, and in January
they departed the factory and headed to Prairie Island.
Each generator stands approximately 70 feet tall and weighs
330 tons.  The St. Marcel factory has direct access to the
Saone River, which hits the Mediterranean Sea at the port
of Marseille.  From there, the replacement steam generators
were loaded on an ocean vessel which set sail February 9th
for the port of New Orleans. After arriving in New Orleans,
the generators were offloaded and placed on a shallow draft
barge for continued travel up the Mississippi River. On
Thursday, April 11, the barge could be seen from downtown
Red Wing, traveling up the Mississippi to Prairie Island.

The $280 million steam generator replacement project
represents one of the significant investments Xcel Energy
is making in its nuclear plants to keep them operating
safely and reliably for the next twenty years. The Prairie
Island and Monticello nuclear plants provide about 30
percent of the electricity Xcel Energy supplies customers
in the Upper Midwest.  Each of the two 550-megawatt
reactors at Prairie Island is refueled approximately once
every 18 months. When both units are operating, the
Prairie Island plant generates 1,100 megawatts of electricity.

During the Prairie Island Unit 2 fall refueling outage,
approximately 800 contractors will be on site to install the
steam generators. They will join a workforce of about 750
plant employees and 750 refueling outage workers. The
contract workers will stay in the local area and support
the local economy during the duration of the outage,
which should last between eight and 10 weeks.

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