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Nuclear Safety and Emergency Preparedness

We own and operate two nuclear power plants: Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant near Monticello, MN and Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant near Red Wing, MN. These plants produce nearly 30 percent of the electricity we provide to customers in the Upper Midwest. Nuclear generation is key to our ability to provide customers in the region with nearly 50 percent of their electricity through carbon-free means.  Learn more about our nuclear fleet click here.

The likelihood of a nuclear emergency is very small, and we work diligently every day to ensure the safe operation of our facilities.  We work closely with national, state, and local emergency management agencies to ensure the health and safety of the communities we support and of our employees. We routinely practice our detailed emergency plans with oversight from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and FEMA.

This page provides basic information on radiation, how nuclear emergencies are declared, and what to do in the remote possibility of a nuclear emergency at one of our nuclear plants.


On average, Americans receive a radiation dose of about 620 millirem each year. Half of this dose comes from natural background radiation. Most of this background exposure comes from radon in the air, with smaller amounts coming from cosmic rays and the Earth itself. The other half comes from manufactured sources of radiation, including medical, commercial, and industrial sources. No adverse health effects have been shown to arise from these levels of radiation exposure.

The pie chart below shows a breakdown of radiation sources that contribute to the average annual U.S. radiation dose.


Above background levels of radiation exposure, the NRC requires that its licensees limit maximum radiation exposure to individual members of the public to 100 mrem per year and limit occupation radiation exposure to adults working with radioactive material to 5,000 mrem per year. NRC regulations and radiation exposure limits are contained in Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 20.

For more information on radiation, visit the NRC website (external link).

Emergency Classification Hazard

Emergency Classification is a set of plant conditions that indicate a level of risk to the public. Nuclear power plants use the four emergency classifications listed below in order of increasing severity.

Classifications Classifications

Sirens and Emergency Notification Systems Sirens

Sirens are tested the first Wednesday of every month at 1:00 p.m. and will sound for one to three minutes. Sirens will also be activated for weather warnings or an emergency at a Nuclear Generating Plant. If a siren is activated for an emergency:

In addition to the monthly first Wednesday siren test, the sirens will be periodically tested to ensure maximum siren availability. During these tests, you may hear sirens activate for 10-15 seconds. This short activation is part of maintenance testing. These brief tests will typically be performed on Wednesdays, but they may also be performed at other times, such as after a severe storm has passed, to check for any damage to the sirens.

If you have concerns that a siren did not sound when it should have, or has somehow malfunctioned, please call your local emergency manager.

The Wright and Sherburne County Emergency Alert Systems also use high-volume, high-speed communication services for mass emergency notifications. Residents and businesses are able to add or update their contact information to ensure they will be included when a message is sent for all hazard notifications, including nuclear. The system allows for unlisted numbers, mobile numbers, and TDD/TYY requirements to be loaded. To be added to your county’s system, use the links below or contact your county’s emergency manager.

Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant
Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant

Protective Actions

Conditions at the nuclear plants are continuously monitored. If an unexpected release of radiation occurs or is projected, state and local officials may order protective actions (evacuation or shelter-in-place).

Evacuation Evacuation

Evacuation would normally be directed as a precaution when large amounts of radioactivity are expected to be released over a prolonged period of time. Do not evacuate if your area has not been instructed to do so. If you are told to leave the area, follow these general instructions:

• Stay calm and do not rush.

• Gather what you and your family may need for a few days:

     – Clothing.

     – Medical supplies – prescription medication, glasses, first-aid kit.

     – Important items – identification, credit cards, cash/check book, cellphones, and chargers.

     – Personal items – pillows, sleeping bags, personal hygiene items.

     – Children and infant supplies – diapers, baby food, favorite toys.

     – Pets and pet supplies, including immunization records.

• Shut windows and turn off the same appliances you would if you were taking a multi-day trip.

• Lock all doors and windows.

• Keep windows and vents in your vehicle closed while driving in the emergency zone within 10 miles of the plant.

• Follow the evacuation route mapped out for you (see map in brochure).

• Go directly to the reception center. Officials there will assist in finding food, shelter, and if necessary, locating other family members you may have become separated from.

• If you have a family member in a nursing home or hospital, do not
try to pick them up. These facilities have their own emergency evacuation procedures.

• If you have a child in school within the 10-mile emergency planning zone, familiarize yourself with the school’s emergency response plan. Do not go to the school.

• If you are leaving pets or livestock behind, it is recommended that you provide an ample supply of food and water.

Reception Centers Checklist

Reception centers are set up to receive all evacuees. Trained officials will check you, your vehicle, and your pets for any unlikely radioactive contamination and will provide decontamination services, if needed. Medical services will also be available.

After registering at the emergency reception center, you can stay with a friend or relative outside of the affected area. If you do not have a place of your own, you can stay at an American Red Cross Shelter (congregate care center).

Do not bring alcohol, weapons, or illegal drugs to the reception center.

Monticello Reception Centers Monticello Reception Centers
Prairie Island Reception Centers Prairie Island Reception Centers

Schools Schools

If instructed to relocate, students will be transported to a “sister school” outside the Emergency Planning Zone. You will be able to pick up your child at those locations. Please do not disrupt evacuation procedures by going to your child’s school.

Children who live within the 10-mile Emergency Planning Zone but attend school outside of the EPZ will not be bused home during an emergency. Parents should pick them up at their current school.

Special Populations Hospital

Provisions for special populations are in place. Residents of nursing homes, hospital patients, children in daycare and preschools, and prisoners will be relocated outside of the EPZ in accordance with facility, county, and state emergency plans.

Shelter-In-Place House

Sheltering-in-place simply means going indoors and staying there until the emergency has passed. If you are instructed to shelter-in-place, the following actions are recommended:

• Close all windows and doors.

• Keep family and pets inside.

• Turn off all fans, air conditioning, furnaces, or fireplaces that require outside air. Close all air intakes. Utilize electrical heating as needed.

• If you must go outside to warn a friend or family member, cover your mouth and nose with a wet cloth.

• If you have been outside, wash your hands and face, especially before eating or handling food. If possible, take a shower and wash any clothes you were wearing while outside.

• While sheltering, prepare items for evacuation in case you are told to evacuate.

Other Protective Actions

Potassium Iodide (KI) KI

Potassium Iodide, known as KI, is an over-the-counter medication that is taken as a supplemental protective action in addition to evacuation or sheltering-in-place. KI is used to protect the thyroid gland from radioactive iodine.

To obtain KI free of charge, complete the voucher that was included in your brochure and bring to one of the participating Target CVS pharmacies listed below.

Monticello Locations Monticello Locations
Prairie Island Locations Prairie Island Locations

Note: This is a KI pre-distribution program and is only available during non-emergency times. Should an emergency occur with a severity level Alert or higher, KI distribution at the participating pharmacies will be stopped.

Additional information on health effects and use of KI.

Animal, Livestock, and
Crop Protective Actions Chicken

Remove livestock from pasture, shelter them in an enclosed facility, and limit the entry of outside air and water. Provide feed and water from protected sources. Government officials may restrict the movement of food products and withhold them from the marketplace until sampling analysis is completed. For more information, read the booklet “Radiological Emergency Information for Farmers, Food Processors, and Distributors.”

People with Functional Needs Handicap

Local emergency management officials will help people unable to evacuate on their own. If you or someone you know is mobility disabled, deaf or hard of hearing, blind, or without transportation, please fill out and send in the enclosed registration card. Xcel Energy will forward the card to local authorities. This information will remain confidential in keeping with the Minnesota data privacy requirements.

How Wide of an Area Will be Affected?

A nuclear generating plant emergency could affect an area varying from the immediate plant site itself to many square miles around the plant. The hazard would be from radioactive gases or radioactive materials the wind could carry from the plant.

Two types of planning zones may be referred to in an emergency:

Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ)

Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ) is the area within a 10-mile radius around the nuclear generating plant in which people may be directly exposed to radiation. The maps below show the 10-mile EPZ around each of Xcel Energy's nuclear plants. The EPZ is divided into subareas based on familiar landmarks such as highways, roads, rural townships, etc. In the unlikely event of an accident involving radioactive releases from the plant, EAS radio and television stations will describe the areas where residents should take action to evacuate or shelter-in-place. The maps below also show the routes to the reception centers in case of evacuation.

Monticello Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ) Monticello Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ)
Prairie Island Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ) Prairie Island Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ)

Ingestion Pathway Zone (IPZ)

Ingestion Pathway Zone (IPZ) is the area within a 50-mile radius around the nuclear generating plant in which people may be indirectly exposed to radiation by eating or drinking contaminated food, milk, and water.

Contact Information

For information during an emergency, call:

The following hotlines will be established for individuals seeking emergency information.

For more information during non-emergency conditions call:

Wright County 
Emergency Management 763.684.2371
Extension Service Office 763.682.7394

Sherburne County 
Emergency Management 763.765.3500
Extension Service Office 763.241.2720

Dakota County 
Emergency Preparedness Coordinator 651.438.4703
Extension Service Office 651.480.7745

Goodhue County 
Emergency Management Director 651.267.2640
Extension Service Office 651.385.3100

City of Red Wing 
Emergency Management Director 651.267.2611
Prairie Island Indian Community
Emergency Management                                          651.385.4178
Public Safety 651.267.4000

Pierce County 
Emergency Management Director 715.273.6751
Extension Service Office 715.273.6781

Homeland Security and Emergency Management
Radiological Preparedness                                        651.201.7434

Social media links

• HSEM Facebook:
• HSEM Twitter: (@MnDPS_HSEM)
• DPS Instagram: (@minnesota_dps)
• DPS YouTube:
• WEM Facebook:
• WEM Twitter:
• WEM Instagram:

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