Xcel Energy, the operator of Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant has begun a scheduled refuelling outage on Saturday.

The outage work once completed will increase the plant’s output by 71MW.

Northern States Power Co.-Minnesota, an Xcel Energy company, president and CEO Judy Poferl said the company’s Monticello and Prairie Island nuclear plants generate low-cost, carbon-free electricity for customers.

"We are expanding investments in our nuclear plants to retain those benefits for another 20 years," Poferl added.

As part of the outage, workers will perform major equipment upgrades to increase the plant’s generating capacity and to ensure continued safe and reliable operations.

The work will increase the unit’s capacity to 671MW and improve plant efficiency.

About 2,000 contractors will help plant staff to complete the maintenance and construction work to prepare the unit for its next operating cycle, which will also include installing new fuel assemblies in the reactor.

Located about 40 miles northwest of Minneapolis, the Monticello plant generates enough electricity to power nearly 500,000 homes.