The Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant began commercial operations 45 years ago, on June 30, 1971. For decades, the plant has provided clean and reliable power to Xcel Energy customers in the Upper Midwest. This plant and its employees have been an important part of the community and a major part of Xcel Energy’s clean energy system. As we prepare to celebrate this milestone, here are some things you may not know about nuclear power and the Monticello plant.
1. The Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant generates 671 megawatts of electricity. That’s enough to power more than 500,000 households and is about 10 percent of the electricity used by Xcel Energy customers in the Upper Midwest.
2. Monticello and Prairie Island, Xcel Energy’s other nuclear plant, avoid 7 million tons of carbon dioxide each year – equal to removing more than 1 million cars from the road.
3. The Monticello plant is one of the largest employers in the area. About 500 people are employed full time while hundreds of contractors can grow that number to over 1,000 during maintenance and refueling.
4. The Monticello plant is a significant contributor to the local tax base. In 2015, this plant paid about $16.5 million in local taxes – $4.4 million of which went to area schools.
5. U.S. nuclear plants generate power, on average, more than 90 percent of the time, usually only shutting down for maintenance and refueling ever two years or so.
6. Nuclear power provides more than 20 percent of the country’s electricity.
7. Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar Unit 2 is the first new commercial reactor to come online in about 20 years.
8. 63 percent of the country’s low-carbon energy comes from nuclear plants
9. When looking into a site’s spent fuel pool, a blue glow emanates from some of the fuel bundles. That is called Cherenkov radiation. The blue glow is created by the charged particles passing through the water at speeds greater than the speed of light in water. This effect is shown in the photo, taken at the Monticello plant when it was refueled last year.