Xcel Energy checks nuclear power plant safety

Xcel Energy is checking emergency systems at its nuclear power plants in Minnesota to be sure they're ready for unexpected events, such as the earthquake and tidal wave that crippled a reactor in Japan.

Xcel's Prairie Island and Monticello plants were constructed with certain safety systems built in. After the partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in 1979, and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the government required additional responses. Now, the events in Japan are prompting the industry to take a fresh look.

Xcel Energy's Terry Pickens says portable pumps would use Mississippi River water to cool a damaged reactor, if an accident were to destroy normal safety systems.

"Let's assume there's nothing there and figure out how we're going to deal with it in that event, and that's the portable diesel water pump that we put in place," Pickens said.

Pickens says the plants are designed to withstand earthquakes similar to some that occurred in Minnesota in the late 1800s.