Following approval by the Minnesota Senate, on 24 May the Minnesota House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow Xcel Energy to store twelve more casks at the Prairie Island plant. The bill, which would allow Xcel to operate the plant at least seven years longer than it could with its current storage capacity, also transfers authority over future waste storage matters from the legislature to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC). Xcel has said that the 17-cask spent fuel storage limit at Prairie Island would have to be raised if the plant is to operate beyond 2007 (see NEI February 2003, p8).
The bill now goes to governor Tim Pawlenty, who expressed reservations about earlier versions, but now is expected to give it his signature. Pawlenty has said he supports the continuation of nuclear energy for the "near and intermediate" future.
A few days before the bill was passed, the Prairie Island Mdewankanton Dakota Tribe approved an agreement with Xcel Energy to accept more storage outside the Prairie Island nuclear plant, so long as it would be authorised to do so by the Minnesota legislature. Under the agreement, the tribe would get $1 million a year for as long as Prairie Island operates, plus further amounts for emergency evacuation routes, health studies and land development.