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Additional inspections will go on at Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island nuclear power plant because of a safety violation involving a radiation detector last December.

Operators at the twin-reactor plant 45 miles southeast of the Twin Cities near Red Wing, MN, failed to prioritize the repair of a “high-range vent gas radiation detector” found to be out of service at its Unit 1 reactor during an Dec. 18 inspection, said Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) officials.

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The detector works to help determine if an incident resulted in the release of radioactive gases and should end up classified as a general or site area emergency, the two highest NRC emergency classifications, according to the NRC.

The plant had alternative methods in place that would have allowed Prairie Island staff to make an emergency determination, but the NRC was not satisfied.

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In its color-coded classifications for violations that begin at “green” and run up the ladder to “white,” “yellow” and “red” in order of importance, the NRC classified the incident as white, or having a low to moderate safety significance.

Minneapolis-based Xcel has since repaired the detector and returned it to service. The utility has taken corrective actions to better assess emergency equipment failures, the NRC said.

“Even though the issue did not have an impact on the public, the NRC requires measures to be in place and maintained to ensure the health and safety of the public is protected during certain emergency events,” NRC Midwest Regional Administrator Charles Casto said.

Xcel Energy officials said in response there was never any danger to the public or plant workers.

“Safety and security at our nuclear plants are our highest priorities, and we take this matter very seriously. The plant has adjusted its processes so radiation monitor repairs will be made in a timely fashion in the future,” said Prairie Island site vice president Jim Lynch.

Prairie Island produces about 1,100 megawatts of power, or enough to power about 1 million homes.

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