The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission granted Xcel Energy approval to extend operations of the Monticello nuclear plant through 2040.

State regulators approved Xcel’s application to increase the storage of spent nuclear fuel at the site, opening the door for at least 10 more years of operation.

As part of extending the use of the Monticello plant, the utility has also filed with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to request an extension of the plant’s operating license. This review process is extensive, and a decision from federal regulators isn’t expected until late 2024.

In November 2022 about 400,000 gallons (1.5 million liters) of water containing tritium leaked from a faulty pipe at the plant. Xcel Energy made a temporary fix but learned in March 2023 that hundreds more gallons of tritium-laced water leaked, leading to a dayslong shutdown to fix the pipe.

While the utility and health officials say there is no threat or danger due to the leak, the issue has prompted concerns among residents and raised questions about aging pipelines.

More than half of the tritium that leaked from the pipe had been recovered, officials said in May.

The 571 MW Monticello plant is located about 40 miles northwest of Minneapolis.

Xcel’s Monticello and Prairie Island nuclear plants combined provide more than 30% of the electricity that the utility’s customers use in the Upper Midwest. Minnesota has a goal of 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040.

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