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Monticello nuclear plant using drone and virtual reality tech for refueling and maintenance projects

Monticello Nuclear Generating Station image courtesy of Xcel Energy

After two consecutive years of breaking its own generation records and reliably providing carbon-free electricity to customers throughout the Upper Midwest, the Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant began its biennial refueling outage on April 13. For the first time, new drone and virtual reality technology is helping crews complete this important work.

“Our Upper Midwest nuclear plants are a cornerstone of our strategy to provide 85 percent carbon free electricity to our customers while keeping bills low,” said Chris Clark, president, Xcel Energy-Minnesota. “The work performed this month at Monticello will position the plant to continue delivering reliable, affordable, clean energy.”

Training and maintenance improved with virtual reality technology and use of drones

During this maintenance, new technology is being introduced to help improve safety and save time performing some specialized training and inspections. Virtual reality technology will be used to train new workers on several activities that will increase employee safety around sensitive equipment. The technology will provide a more immersive training experience, helping to complete jobs more quickly and safely by providing a hands-on training environment prior to performing work in the plant.

“Using virtual reality technology in training is an example of our employees being innovative in their work, improving efficiency in our operations, while always keeping an eye on safety,” said Chris Church, Monticello Site Vice President.

Workers will use a drone to inspect several pieces of equipment in and around the plant, saving time, money and increasing worker safety by eliminating the need to build and climb scaffolding for manual inspections. The specialized camera on the drone will provide high-resolution photos that can identify issues that may be missed by the naked eye, increasing effectiveness of the inspections.

More than 1,000 specialized workers will replace about one-third of the plant’s nuclear fuel, and perform maintenance, inspections and testing that can only be conducted when the plant is off-line. The work will help ensure Monticello continues to provide safe, clean, reliable power as well as providing significant economic, environmental and electric benefits to the region.

When operating, the power plant generates enough electricity to power more than 870,000 homes.

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