Safety drills this week at Monticello nuclear plantby Elizabeth Baier, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Several hundred emergency responders will descend on Monticello this week for a routine safety drill at Xcel Energy's nuclear power plant.
Officials say residents in Sherburne and Wright counties should expect to see more emergency response vehicles and state patrol cars around town during the drill, which will take place throughout the day Wednesday and Thursday.
"This is just a simulated drill, and they will see some response activities in and around the area around the plant," said Doug Neville, spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. "We don't want them to panic."
Neville said the drills, which have taken place for more than a dozen years, alternate each year between the Monticello and Prairie Island nuclear facilities.
Emergency responders will go through a scenario in real time, to test their ability to take decisive action in an emergency incident, Neville said.
"We don't necessarily know what's going to happen," Neville said. "We will have to demonstrate that we take the proper steps to respond to whatever the emergency is."
Past simulations have included tornadoes hitting the plant, plane crashes and terrorist attacks -- even though Neville said the likelihood of the latter is almost nonexistent.
He said plant officials and emergency responders are confident the facility is prepared to prevent the unimaginable from happening.
Terrorist attacks are "the worst-case scenario, and we haven't even come close to anything like that in the state in the past," Neville said. "We have to be ready to respond to whatever it is."
Officials with the state's Department of Public Safety, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Xcel Energy, the State Patrol, the Department of Agriculture and operators of the nuclear plant will participate in the drill.