Last reviewed October 2012
Resources on Minnesota Issues
Nuclear Waste Storage in Minnesota
This guide is compiled by staff at the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library on a topic of interest to
Minnesota legislators. It is designed to provide an introduction to the topic, directing the user to a variety
of sources, and is not intended to be exhaustive.
Minnesota is the home of two nuclear generating facilities: the Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant and the Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant.
They have been in operation since the early 1970s. The issues of how and where to store the nuclear waste generated by these facilities first came to
the forefront in the late 1980s when the Prairie Island facility faced the prospect of closing if additional storage space wasn't found.
At that time, Prairie Island's high-level spent radioactive waste was stored in stainless steel-lined concrete vaults that were
surrounded by cooling water. Under provisions of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982,
the U.S. Government was to develop a site that would accept radioactive waste from the country's nuclear power plants beginning on January 31, 1998.
By the late 1980s, with a nuclear waste repository years from completion and Prairie Island running out of storage space,
Northern States Power (NSP) (now known as Xcel Energy)
asked the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board (EQB) for permission to store additional waste in dry casks
at the Prairie Island site. In May 1990, the board called for an environmental impact study of the proposed dry cask storage. In the spring of 1991
the EQB approved and released the Final Environmental Impact Statement:
Prairie Island Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation.
In April 1991, NSP approached the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC),
seeking permission to build the facility (Application for Certificate of Need).
Hearings were held in front of Administrative Law Judge Allan Klein in November and December 1991; in April 1992 Judge Klein recommended
that the PUC deny the certificate of need. He stated, "The likelihood that the dry cask storage would become permanent is so great that it
is appropriate to require legislative authorization if the project must go forward immediately." Despite these recommendations, the Public
Utilities Commission ruled that NSP could store the waste, though the number of casks allowed was reduced from 48 to 17.
The Mdewakanton Prairie Island Indian Community and environmental groups
opposed to the storage facility appealed the PUC decision to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. The groups argued that the
additional storage should be classified as permanent and that under the 1977 Minnesota Radioactive Waste Management Act,
NSP needed authorization from the Legislature before the PUC could rule on the matter;
on May 28, 1993, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled
that legislative authorization was needed. In July 1993, the Minnesota Supreme Court refused to hear an NSP appeal, leaving the decision to the Minnesota
Legislature. After extensive debate, the 1994 legislature passed a law that permitted NSP to use 17 casks for nuclear waste storage
(Laws of Minnesota 1994, chapter 641). Also in that law was a provision prohibiting the construction of any additional nuclear-powered
electrical generating plants in the state (Minnesota Statutes 216B.243, subdivision 3b).
The casks were subsequently placed at the Prairie Island generating facility.
In 1998, after the U.S. Department of Energy failed to meet a January 31, 1998 deadline to accept waste from the
country's nuclear power plants, NSP filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims against the department
seeking reimbursement for the costs of storing the waste at its Minnesota facilities. (The suit was settled in September
2007, with Xcel Energy/NSP being awarded $116 million for costs accrued through 2004. In August 2007, Xcel Energy filed another lawsuit against
the U.S. Department of Energy seeking money to cover waste storage costs from 2005 through June 2007.)
As Prairie Island continued operating, the 17 storage casks were gradually filled, raising concerns that the reactors
might have to cease operations due to the lack of storage space. By 2003 the issue was once again before the Minnesota Legislature.
During the 2003 session, bills were introduced to allow additional storage space at Prairie Island
(House File 775 /
Senate File 794).
The legislation did not pass during the regular session but was enacted
during the 2003 Special Session
(Laws of Minnesota 2003, 1st Special Session, chapter 11). The new law, effective May 30, 2003, authorized
the use of additional dry cask storage on the Prairie Island site. The waste storage capacity was subject to the limits
set by the federal license that allowed up to 48 casks. The law also included provisions for renewable energy development
and required Xcel Energy to give the Prairie Island Indian Community up to $2.5 million per year for, among other purposes,
the acquisition of land away from the Prairie Island facility. Finally, the law required that any future requests for
additional nuclear waste storage capacity would be subject to the approval of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.
The next request for additional waste storage came in January 2005 when Xcel Energy filed an
application for a Certificate of Need with the Minnesota PUC to build a nuclear waste storage facility at the site of its Monticello plant.
In June 2005, the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board approved an
EIS Scoping Decision that outlined the issues and the alternatives to be examined as part of a required environmental impact study (EIS).
A Draft EIS was issued in
November 2005 and a Final EIS
in March 2006. An
Adequacy Determination was issued on July 26, 2006 by the Minnesota Department of Commerce. On August 4, 2006, Administrative Law Judge
Steve M. Mihalchick issued a ruling on Xcel Energy's Certificate of Need concluding, "It is respectfully recommended that the
Public Utilities Commission issue a Certificate of Need to Xcel Energy for the construction and operation of a dry spent fuel storage facility at
the Monticello generating plant with up to 30 spent fuel containers, vaults, and associated equipment necessary to allow the Monticello generating plant
to continue in operation through 2030."On September 28, 2006, the PUC approved Xcel Energy's request for nuclear waste storage at the Monticello
facility. The decision was effective in June 2007 and construction was planned to begin later that year.
In addition to these state regulatory activities, on March 24, 2005, Xcel Energy filed a license renewal application with the federal Nuclear
Regulatory Commission (NRC), seeking a 20-year license renewal for its Monticello facility. The single reactor at the
Monticello plant was licensed until 2010. On November 8, 2006, the NRC granted the renewal, extending Monticello's operating license until September 8,
2030. On April 15, 2008, Xcel Energy submitted an application
to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission seeking 20 year license extensions for Prairie Island's two reactors. The current licenses expired in 2013 and 2014.
The NRC issued a final EIS related to the license extension in May 2011 and
on June 27, 2011 the NRC renewed the operating licenses of both Prairie Island reactors. Reactor 1 is now licensed to operate until 2033 and
reactor 2 until 2034.
In May 2008, Xcel Energy announced it would seek permission from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to add 35 additional above-ground waste
storage containers at the Prairie Island site; permission would also be sought to expand the generating capacity of each reactor by approximately
80 megawatts, bringing the generating capacity of the of the Prairie Island facility to nearly 1,240 megawatts.
A separate application was filed in 2008 to increase the generating capacity of the Monticello plant.
A Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Prairie Island projects
was issued in late July 2009. In October 2009, the Minnesota Office of Energy Security made a determination
that the final EIS was adequate (Adequacy Determination).
In December 2009, the Public Utilities Commission issued an order
that accepted the Prairie Island environmental impact statement, granted the certificates of need for an extended power uprate (increased generating
capacity) and additional dry cask storage, and issued a site permit with conditions. The Prairie Island Indian Community and the city of Red Wing subsequently
filed an appeal of the order with the Minnesota Court of Appeals. In a decision
filed November 16, 2010, the court rejected the challenge and upheld the Public Utility Commission's order. In August 2012, the Prairie Island Tribe filed
a petition with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission,
seeking to intervene in the license renewal proceedings.
In late March 2012, Excel Energy
that they had asked the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to review the need for the Prairie Island uprate in light of reduced energy demand and other
economic factors. Uprate activity is on hold until the PUC releases its review in early 2013.
Meanwhile, the search for a permanent U.S. repository for spent nuclear waste continues. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)
submitted a license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) seeking authorization to construct a nuclear waste repository at
Yucca Mountain, Nevada. However, in 2009, President Obama's proposed
budget slashed funding for the project. In January 2010, President Obama issued an executive order creating the
Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future.
The commission issued its final report in August 2012.
In March 2010, the U.S. Department of Energy announced plans to terminate the Yucca Mountain repository and
requested that its license application be withdrawn. That request was denied by the NRC.
Several states filed lawsuits, arguing that the DOE did not have
the authority to terminate the Yucca Mountain project. In August 2012, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
stated that the NRC is required
by law to continue efforts to license the Yucca Mountain site. A final decision will be issued in mid-December 2012, pending possible Congressional
In a separate June 2012 decision,
the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found that the NRC's nuclear waste storage rulemaking process was deficient
because in was based on the assumption that a permanent storage facility would be developed. In its ruling, the court found that the NRC's
environmental review process did not calculate the environmental effects of not having a permanent storage facility; the court found that
"... the Commission failed to properly examine future dangers and key consequences" of prolonged on-site nuclear waste storage.
In response to this decision, the NRC issued an
order that temporarily halted nuclear reactor
final licensing decisions.
SIGNIFICANT BOOKS AND REPORTS:
Amicus Curiae Brief of Certain Individual Members
of the Minnesota House of Representatives and the Minnesota Senate, 1993. (A supplemental friend-of-the-court brief filed with the Court of
Appeals.) (Vertical File: A43P)
Background on Nuclear Power in Minnesota.
St. Paul: Minnesota Department of Commerce, 2002. (TD899.A8 B33 2002)
Before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission: Northern States Power Company, Docket No. E002/CN-91-19.
St. Paul: Minnesota Department of Public Service, 1991 (TD899.A8 B44 1991)
Bull, Mike. Nuclear Energy and Xcel Energy's 2002
Resource Plan. St. Paul: Minnesota House of Representatives, House Research Department, 2003. (TD899.A8 B85 2003)
Bull, Mike and John Helland. Nuclear Waste Management and the Prairie Island
Legislation. St. Paul: Minnesota House of Representatives, House Research Department, 1997. (KFM5780.A8 B85 1997)
Commercial Nuclear Waste: Effects of a Termination of the Yucca Mountain
Repository Program and Lessons Learned. Washington, DC: US GAO, 2011.
DOE Nuclear Waste: Better Information Needed on Waste Storage at DOE Sites as a Result
of Yucca Mountain Shutdown. Washington, DC: US GAO, 2011.
Energy Planning Report, 2002 Update. St. Paul:
Minnesota Department of Commerce, 2003. (HD9502.U63 M561 2003)
Final Environmental Impact Statement: Prairie Island Independent
Spent Fuel Storage Installation. St. Paul: Minnesota Environmental Quality Board, 1991. (TD899.A8 F56 1991)
Final Environmental Impact Statement: Xcel Energy Prairie Island Nuclear
Generating Plant. St. Paul, Minnesota Dept. of Commerce, Office of Energy Security, 2009. (TD899.A8 F562 2009)
Helland, John. Nuclear Waste Transportation.
St. Paul: Minnesota House of Representatives, House Research Department, 2002. (HN79.M6 S56 2002)
Helland, John and Linda Taylor. The Prairie Island Nuclear Waste Storage
Issue: Questions and Answers. St. Paul: Minnesota House of Representatives, House Research Department, 1994. (TD899.A8 H45 1994)
Helland, John and Mike Bull. Nuclear Waste Dry
Cask Storage. St. Paul: Minnesota House of Representatives, House Research Department, 2001. (TD899.A8 H452 2001)
In the Matter of an Application for a Certificate of
Need for Construction of an Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation. State of Minnesota, Court of Appeals, May 28, 1993.
(C1-92-2314, C3-92-2315, C9-92-2321) (Vertical File: A43P)
In the Matter of the Application of Northern States Power
Company for a Certificate of Need for the Construction of an Independent Spent Fuel Storage Facility.. State of Minnesota,
Office of Administrative Hearings, April 10, 1992. (6-2500-5462-2, E-002/CN-91-19.) (Vertical File: A43P)
Legislative Authorization of High Level Radioactive Waste Storage on Prairie Island in the Mississippi: Briefing Paper.
(Prepared by Faegre & Benson at the Request of Minnesotans for Nuclear Responsibility). Minnesota, 2004. (Vertical File: A43P)
Legislative Report Concerning Certificate of Need for Dry Cask
Storage Facility, E-002/CN-05-123. St. Paul: State of Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, 2007. (TD899.A8 L44 2007)
Legislative Report Concerning Certificate of Need for Dry Cask
Storage Facility, Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation. St. Paul: State of Minnesota
Public Utilities Commission, 2010. (TD899.A8 L442 2010)
Lehman, Linda. Report to the Minnesota Legislature Regarding the Prairie Island Dry Fuel Storage Project.
Minneapolis: L. Lehman & Associates, 1994. (TD899.A8 L44 1994)
Memorandum of Understanding Between the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
and the Prairie Island Indian Community as a Cooperating Agency. 2008.
Minnesota Energy Planning
Report 2001. St. Paul: Minnesota Department of Commerce, 2002. (HD9502.U63 M561 2002)
Monticello Spent Fuel Storage Installation:
Draft Environmental Impact Statement. St. Paul: Minnesota Dept. of Commerce, 2005. (TD899.A8 M65 2005)
Monticello Spent Fuel Storage Installation:
Final Environmental Impact Statement. St. Paul: Minnesota Dept. of Commerce, 2006. (TD899.A8 M66 2006)
Morris, David and John Bailey. The Costs and Benefits of Closing Prairie Island. Minneapolis: Institute for Local
Self-Reliance, 1993. (TD899.A8 M67 1993)
Northern States Power Company before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, E002/CN-91-19: an index to documents from the Prairie Island
Nuclear Power Plant waste storage case, 1991-1993. Minnesota Public Service Dept., 1993. (TD899.A8 N67 1993).
Northern States Power Company before the MN Public Utilities Commission: Application for Certificate of Need for Prairie Island Spent Fuel Storage,
Docket No. E002/CN/91-19. Minneapolis: Northern States Power Company, Law Department, April 1991. (TD899.A8 N68 1991)
(Vol. 1: Application),
(Vol. 2: Environmental Impact Statement)
Northern States Power Company's Prairie Island Nuclear Facilities:
An Analysis of Options. St. Paul: Minnesota Department of Public Service, 1994. (TD899.A8 N69 1994)
NSP's Other Nuclear Power Controversy: The Operation and Relicensing of the Monticello Nuclear Power Plant:
a Summary of Concerns and a Summary Operating History. Minneapolis, MN: Midwest Office, Izaak Walton League of America, 1993. (TK1344.M6 N77 1993)
Prairie Island Nuclear Storage Legislative Documents, 1992-1994. (Vertical File: A43P)
Prairie Island Spent Fuel Storage: Fact Book. 1993. (TD899.A8 C66 1993)
Procedures, Considerations and Rules for Siting a Dry Cask
Storage Facility. St. Paul: Minnesota Environmental Quality Board, 1994. (TD899.A8 P76 1994)
"Additional Nuclear Storage Approved."
New Laws 2003. St. Paul: Minnesota House of Representatives, Public Information Office, 2003, p. 28-29.
Egerstrom, Lee. "NSP Files Suit Against Energy Department: $1 Billion Claim Centers on Dispute Over Site for
Nuclear Waste Disposal." St. Paul Pioneer Press, June 9, 1998.
Gordon, Greg. "Broken Promise - Missing a Deadline: Government Isn't Set to Accept Nuclear Waste. The Energy
Department is Expected to Draw Lawsuits. In Minnesota, NSP Officials Say the Delay is Costly and Hinders Planning."
Star Tribune, January 21, 1998.
Huber, Tim. "Generating Debate: Monticello Nuclear Plant Faces Long License Review - With Approval Nearly Certain."
St. Paul Pioneer Press, October 17, 2004, p. D1.
Huber, Tim. "Xcel Seeks More Waste Storage." St. Paul Pioneer Press, January 27, 2006, p. 3B.
Huber, Tim. "Xcel Ups Waste Plan: Greater Storage Sought for Spent Nuclear Fuel." St. Paul Pioneer Press,
September 2, 2004, p. C1.
Kaszuba, Mike. "How Big is Nuclear Danger? Concerned About the Radioactive Waste Piling Up at Two Plants, Red Wing and Monticello
Want Help Managing the Risk." Star Tribune, December 10, 2009, P. A1.
Kriz, Margaret. "Deep-Sixing Yucca Mountain." National Journal, May 16, 2009, p. 48-49.
Laszewski, Charles. "Legislature Confronts Energy Future: Effects of Decision on Storing Spent Fuel Will be Felt
for Years." St. Paul Pioneer Press, February 6, 1994, p. 1A.
Laszewski, Charles. "Session Draws to Close: Legislature Approves NSP Storage Casks." St. Paul Pioneer
Press, May 7, 1994. p. 1A.
Lien, Dennis. "Judge OKs Nuclear Waste Storage." St. Paul Pioneer Press, August 22, 2006.
Lien, Dennis. "Plant's Nuclear Waste Plan Challenged." St. Paul Pioneer Press, November 15, 2006,
Lien, Dennis. "Pawlenty Signs Nuclear Waste Storage Bill: It Allows Storage at Nuclear Plant Until 2014."
St. Paul Pioneer Press, May 30, 2003, p. B3.
Lien, Dennis. "Prairie Island Power Struggle: A Local Indian Tribe Could Decide Whether Xcel's Plant Keeps
Operating." St. Paul Pioneer Press, January 24, 2003, p. A1.
Lien, Dennis. "Quiet Hearing OKs Nuke Storage: Decision Final in June Unless Legislators Act."
St. Paul Pioneer Press, September 29, 2006, p. 3B.
"Managing Nuclear Waste: Should Spent Fuel be Sent to Yucca Mountain?". CQ Researcher, January 28, 2011.
Meersman, Tom. "Fate of Prairie Island Plant is in Legislature's Hands: Nuclear Storage Plan Heats Up All
Sides." Star Tribune, February 15, 1994, p. 1A.
Meersman, Tom. "Nuclear Waste Looks Like It Will Be in Minnesota Awhile." Star Tribune, March 7, 2009, p. A1.
Meersman, Tom. "A Sustained Reaction: Xcel Last Week Was Granted License Renewal for its Monticello Nuclear Power Plant.
But Stretching the Life of a Reactor to 60 Years Raises Questions..." Star Tribune, November 12, 2006,
Meyers, Mike. "Xcel's Monticello Nuclear Plant License is Extended to 2030." Star Tribune,
November 9, 2006, p. D1.
Meyers, Mike. "Xcel Wins Suit Over Spent-Fuel Storage: Its NSP Subsidiary Won a Big Judgment Against the U.S.
Government on Nuclear Waste Disposal That's Still in Limbo." Star Tribune, September 29, 2007.
NSP Nuclear Storage, 1994-1996: Compilation of News Articles. (Vertical File: A43P)
Prairie Island News Articles, 1993-1994: Compilation. (Vertical File: A43P)
"Prairie Island Nuclear Storage".
Session Weekly May 13, 1994, p. 18-19.
Shaffer, David. "Fuel-Storage Pools in State Get Fresh Attention". Star Tribune, March 27, 2011, p. A1.
Shaffer, David. "Nuclear Economics: A Proposed Power Upgrade to Xcel Energy's Prairie Island Plant is Sidelined Over Cost Uncertainties".
Star Tribune, October 14, 2012, p. D1.
Shaffer, David. "Tribe Faces Fight to Make Case Over Nuclear Storage". Star Tribune, September 29, 2012, p. D1.
Shaffer, David. "Xcel Pauses Prairie Island Upgrade". Star Tribune, March 31, 2012.
Whereatt, Robert. "Full Senate, House Approve NSP Plan for Nuclear Waste. Bill Allows 17 Casks, Pushes
Alternative Energy." Star Tribune, May 7, 1994, p. 1B.
ADDITIONAL LIBRARY RESOURCES:
For historical information, check the following codes in the Newspaper Clipping File and the Vertical File:
A43M (Atomic Power Plants - Monticello), A43P (Atomic Power Plants - Prairie Island), A43.5 (Atomic Power
Plants - Wastes), C118- Xcel Energy. (For clips prior to 2001, see C118- Northern States Power)
For additional reports at the Legislative Reference Library, use these Library catalog searches:
GROUPS INVOLVED WITH THIS ISSUE: