Seems Xcel had a bit of a problem with an equipment shipment from Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant… oops… it was too radioactive at the receiving end of the line… how was it before and during???  Hmmmmmm…

Here’s the NRC report:

Prairie island Preliminary Yellow Findings Report

Bottom line?

…. the NRC concluded, that the elevated ratiation levels, although on the underside of the package, had the potential to adversely affect personnel who would normally receive the package and/or respond to an incident involving the package with the reasonable expectation that the package conformed to DOT radiation limitations.

and, regarding Title 49 CFR 173.44(a) which sets out specific shipping requirements …

Contrary to these requirements, on October 29, 2008, Northern States Power – Minnesota (Prairie Island) shipped a package containing radioactive material that was not sufficiently designed nor prepared to assure that, under conditions normally incident to transportation, the radioation level on the external surface of the package would not exceed 200 mrem/hour.  When received and surveyed at the shipping destination (Westinghouse in Waltz Mill, Pennsylvania), on October 31, 2008, the external surface of the package exhibited radiation levels of 1630 mrem/h [i.e. package radiation levels greater than five and less than ten times the regulatory limit].

Prairie island Preliminary Yellow Findings Report, see p. 9-11.

Here’s the story from the Red Wing Republican Beagle, also posted as AP in STrib and StPPP:


Shipments radioactivity was too high

Anne Jacobson
The Republican Eagle – 02/16/2009

A radioactive piece of equipment passed muster when it left Prairie Island nuclear plant, but the package exceeded safe radiation shipping levels by eight times when it reached Pennsylvania.

Plant Vice President Mike Wadley called it a serious and rare event.

The Nuclear Regulation Commission officials notified him by mail last week that they have issued a preliminary “yellow” finding in the matter. Yellow is the third highest of four safety risk rankings.

The NRC defines a yellow as an incident of substantial safety significance that will require additional inspections.

The plant immediately reported the incident to the NRC, Wadley said Monday. Westinghouse Electric Co., which received the shipment, also filed a report.

Investigators determined that a small particle moved during shipping, coming to rest on the steel shipping container’s bottom. That spot exceeded by eight times the 200 millirem radiation limit set by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The equipment, which workers used during the plant’s Unit 2 refueling outage last fall to test the integrity of fuel rods in preparation for moving them, is always shipped by itself on a flatbed truck.

“It isn’t migrated or commingled with any other shipment,” Wadley said. “The trucker, no workers, no members of the public were affected.”

The plant promptly stopped all shipments so staff could evaluate what went wrong and modify procedures. Limited shipments resumed Feb. 6.

“We think we’ve eliminated the possibility going forwarded,” he said.

The plant ships potentially radioactive items, from oil to equipment, once a month.

Xcel Energy owns the plant. The utility’s officials as well as plant managers are reviewing the NRC’s preliminary yellow determination and will decide if they wish to respond in person or in writing. A final NRC determination is expected within 90 days.