Nuclear Energy in Minnesota

Patrick McFadden
March 12, 2016

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2016


Fig. 1: Monticello Plant. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Nuclear energy has grown increasingly popular as an energy source to power the world's activities. In my home state of Minnesota, nuclear energy is responsible for over 20% of the energy that is used. [1] Proponents of this form of energy argue for its ability to provide "clean energy", and its jobs/economic benefits. Detractors of nuclear energy argue that these reactors are not safe, and that they emit nuclear waste. In this article, I will explain how Minnesota uses nuclear energy, and look at how nuclear energy may be used in the future in the state.

Nuclear Plants

Minnesota currently has two nuclear energy facilities that are located in the state. The two facilities are the Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant located in Monticello (Fig.1), and the Prairie Island Nuclear Power Plant that is located outside of Red Wing (Fig.2). [1] Prairie Island is a pressurized-water reactor, which "keeps water under pressure so that it heats, but does not boil", and generates energy that way. Alternatively, Monticello is a boiling water reactor, which means the water is actually boiled in order to create the energy. [2] Both of these nuclear plants were built in the 1970's, and neither have had any huge incidents.

Fig. 1: Prairie Island Plant. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Nuclear Energy Usage

As mentioned earlier, nuclear energy accounts for over 20% of the energy that is used in Minnesota. This makes it the second large source of electricity used in the state besides coal (over 50%). Excel Energy, the largest energy provider in the state, operates both of the nuclear plants. [1] Many people prefer nuclear energy usage to coal and natural gas because it is a "cleaner" energy.

Future of Nuclear in Minnesota

Both of the nuclear power plants in Minnesota are licensed through 2030 so it appears that nuclear power is here to stay for the near future. More and more energy is going to be required in the future, so it is important to have a broad portfolio of energy options available. Nuclear energy is going to play a major role in the future energy consumption of Minnesota. [2]

© Patrick McFadden. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] "State Nuclear Profiles 2010," U.S. Energy Information Admnistration, April 2012, pp. 29-30.

[2] "Background on Nuclear Power in Minnesota," Minnesota Department of Commerce, 12 Dec 02.