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2 unit at Red Wing, Minn., nuclear plant unexpectedly shuts down; Plant officials say there no risks to the public

RED WING, Minn. - Operators at the Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant north of here are investigating the cause of a turbine trip that led to the shut down of the plant's Unit 2 reactor early Tuesday morning.

The reactor -- which was being returned to full power following the completion Monday morning of a refueling outage -- was operating at 32 percent capacity at 3:15 a.m. Tuesday morning when it unexpectedly shut down, according to Mary Sandok, the Nuclear Communications Manager of Xcel Energy, which owns and operates the plant.

Sandok said that the reactor is designed to automatically shut down during a turbine trip. These trips, or shut downs, are not uncommon in the nuclear industry when a reactor is being returned to full power, she said, and the incident presented no safety hazards to the public or plant employees.

"There were no injuries, there was no radiological release, and there is no risk to the public," she said.

Plant operators expect to resolve the problem shortly. Prairie Island Unit 1 was not affected and continues to operate at full capacity.

Unit 2 also unexpectedly shut down April 17 when operators were preparing to take it offline to begin refueling. Plant operators say the incidents are not related.

The Red Wing (Minn.) Republican Eagle is owned by Forum Communications Co.