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Associated Press, Published July 15 2013

Nuclear plant upgrade $267 million over budget drives Xcel rate hike request

MONTICELLO, Minn. — A driving force behind Xcel Energy's request for a rate hike is improvements at Minnesota's oldest nuclear power plant which have run $267 million over budget.

Workers replaced aging pumps and other equipment at Xcel's Monticello plant during a four-month shutdown. The 43-year-old reactor could be back on line this week. The upgrade is expected to boost electrical output by 12 percent.

An administrative judge recently recommended holding Xcel's rate hike request to 4.7 percent. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will ultimately decide how much more customers will pay. Xcel has declined comment on the cost overrun while the rate hike request is pending.

Xcel has defended the increased cost in regulatory filings, citing vendor issues and unexpected work among other things.