As the state of Minnesota was facing the possibility of shutting down most activities because of budgetary issues on July 1, the NRC initiated actions to make sure that adequate protection of the public health and safety will be maintained if the state government is shut down.
The Minnesota state government has two critical functions affecting the safety of nuclear materials and nuclear power plants – it regulates the use of radioactive materials for nuclear medicine, research, and industrial applications, and it provides emergency response in the unlikely event of a problem at one of the state’s two nuclear power plants.
Planning for the possible state government shutdown began about two weeks ago as NRC’s Region III staff in Lisle, Ill., and its headquarters Federal State Materials and Environmental Management program began discussions with the state’s Department of Health, which regulates the use of radioactive materials under an agreement with the NRC.
Minnesota has about 180 nuclear materials licenses that it regularly inspects and, if necessary, responds to emergencies or other events at the facilities.
Nuclear materials safety and response functions will be maintained by a reduced Department of Health staff which, having been designated by the Governor as providing a critical function, will remain on duty. The state has also made contingency plans with major users of radioactive materials to provide support in the event of an emergency and, further, to call upon state regulators in Wisconsin and Iowa for assistance, if needed.
There are two nuclear power plants in Minnesota – the Monticello Nuclear Plant located in Monticello north of Minneapolis, and the Prairie Island Nuclear Power Station near Red Wing, south east of Minneapolis. Both are operated by Northern States Power Company, Minnesota.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which oversees state and local radiological emergency planning, has been reviewing the state’s contingency plans for responding to emergencies during the shutdown, and the NRC has been monitoring the interactions between FEMA and the state’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management agency.
The NRC will continue to closely monitor the situation and is prepared to provide assistance should it be necessary to provide for public health and safety.
Deputy Regional Administrator
NRC Region III