Minnesota nuclear power reactor seeks 20-year license extension

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March 10 (Reuters) - Northern States Power Co asked to extend the operating license of its Monticello nuclear reactor in Minnesota by another two decades, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said on Friday.

Monticello is currently greenlighted to run through September 2030. The NRC said it would hold a public meeting on March 22 in Monticello, Minnesota, on the environmental review process for the extension application.

Northern States Power is a unit of Minnesota energy company Xcel Energy Inc (XEL.O).

Minnesota is among a swelling number of U.S. states with climate-related goals to reach net-zero emissions in coming years, with the northern Midwest state aiming for a 2040 deadline, and nuclear power generation has become a centerpiece to many of those plans.

The 93 nuclear reactors operating in the United States began with 40-year permits and most have already asked for 20-year extensions.

The reactor in Monticello, located about 35 miles northwest of Minneapolis, opened in 1971 and has already been granted one 20-year extension.

Many states are now aiming to keep reactors online longer as a bridge from mostly fossil-fueled power plants to mainly renewable electricity sources like wind and solar to meet their clean energy goals.

In 2022, the largest share of power generated in Minnesota came from coal, at 27%, with the rest coming from nuclear at 24%, wind at 24%, natural gas at 18%, and other fuels such as solar, wood and hydro at about 7%.

Ten years ago, in 2012, about 43% of electricity generated in Minnesota came from coal, while 23% came from nuclear, 15% from wind and 13% from gas. The rest was again from other sources such as hydro, wood and other biomass.

Unlike power produced from fossil fuels such as coal, gas or oil, nuclear power produces virtually no climate-warming greenhouse gasses, which has increased its popularity in recent years.

Nuclear power does produce radioactive waste, and deadly high-profile accidents around the world involving nuclear meltdowns in recent decades have been a barrier to expanding the industry.

Reporting by Laila Kearney and Scott DiSavino; Editing by Leslie Adler

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