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Xcel outage helps fuel Red Wing, Minn., economy

RED WING, Minn. -- Hundreds of extra workers are flooding the area as the refueling outage at Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island nuclear plant gets underway.

Work at Unit 2 began at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, according to Xcel.

During the outage, about 1,500 contractors will help plant staff install two new steam generators, replace a third of the unit’s fuel and perform other maintenance.

That influx of personnel -- and potential temporary residents -- is a “great economic engine for our community,” Red Wing Chamber of Commerce President Patty Brown said. “It’ll have a very positive impact on area businesses.”

For example, hotels and rental housing are quickly filling, she said. Restaurants and stores also likely will see more business during the outage.

“They’re basically living here in our city for three to four months,” Brown said of the contractors.

In the months leading up to the outage, the chamber worked to find housing for the visiting workers. The goal is to keep them near Red Wing rather than commuting from the Twin Cities or the south, she said.

Each of the two 550-megawatt reactors at Prairie Island is refueled about every 18 months. Unit 1 remains at full power during Unit 2’s outage.

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