ST. PAUL, Minn., Jan. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- As the Minnesota Legislature prepares to grapple with Xcel Energy's request to expand nuclear waste storage at Prairie Island, a new statewide poll finds that nearly 90 percent (89.1%) of Minnesotans believe the Prairie Island Indian Community should have a say in whether additional storage is allowed. The tribe is located just 600 yards from Xcel's Prairie Island nuclear waste storage site. In 1994 the tribe was given standing to enforce the terms of a legal agreement between the state and Xcel that allowed a limited amount of nuclear waste to be stored in large concrete casks adjacent to the tribe's reservation. "We're encouraged that the people of Minnesota agree that our community needs to be a deciding factor in whether additional nuclear waste is allowed at Prairie Island," said Tribal Council President Audrey Bennett. "You don't need to have a law degree to know what's right -- the state and Xcel should honor their commitment to our people." According to the survey, the nuclear power issue remains divisive in Minnesota with just more than half (53.0%) of those polled supporting the state's continued use of nuclear power. Currently, the state's two nuclear power plants generate about 20 percent of the electricity consumed in Minnesota. Ninety-five percent of those polled rate the storage of nuclear waste as important and nearly 60 percent (57.6%) are concerned that terrorists could target Minnesota's nuclear sites. The survey also found that most Minnesotans could identify with the Prairie Island Community's health and safety concerns. Seventy-five percent of those polled say they would not feel safe living 600 yards from a nuclear waste site, and of those 54 percent would need to live at least 50 miles away before feeling safe. Coincidently, a majority of the state's population base, including the metro area, is located within 50 miles of the state's two nuclear facilities, which are located near St. Cloud and Red Wing. More than 80 percent (81.4%) of the respondents also say they would expect some type of compensation for having to live within a mile of a nuclear site. "Most Minnesotans don't worry about the dangers of nuclear power because they don't live with it every day," said Bennett. "Every time we go outside or look out our windows we see the nuclear power plant and we're reminded instantly of how vulnerable we are to the dangers that lurk inside. Every time a plane or helicopter flies overhead or more than a few cars are seen speeding away from the plant, we fear the worst. It's not something you get accustom to." Although the Prairie Island Indian Community is opposed to additional nuclear waste storage at Prairie Island, the tribe remains willing to sit down with Xcel and the state to discuss possible solutions that would address the tribe's health and safety needs, and allow the plant to continue operating. "We're hopeful that we can come to an agreement that is in the best interest of our community, the state and Xcel Energy employees and ratepayers," added Bennett. "Our needs haven't changed since this issue was first addressed by the Legislature in 1994. We're just asking for what's right and what any other community in our situation would demand." Both Xcel and the Prairie Island Community support the eventual removal of nuclear waste from Prairie Island. The tribe continues to support efforts to establish a national nuclear waste repository at Nevada's Yucca Mountain. According to the survey, 60 percent of Minnesotans support removing nuclear waste from Minnesota; 85 percent believe it is dangerous to the environment to leave nuclear waste sitting along the banks of the Mississippi River. The survey was conducted Jan. 7-9, 2003, by international research firm Ipsos Reid on behalf of the Prairie Island Indian Community. The participants were contacted via telephone; the results have a margin of error of +/- 5 percent. The Prairie Island Indian Community is located only 600 yards from Xcel Energy's Prairie Island nuclear power plant and nuclear waste site. Adding to the tribe's concern, in the event of an accident, there is only one permanent evacuation route off Prairie Island, and it's frequently blocked by train activity and subject to seasonal flooding. In 1994, as part of the legislation that first allowed then-Northern States Power Company to store nuclear waste at Prairie Island, NSP and the state signed an agreement effectively limiting storage to 17 casks. The Prairie Island Indian Community was made an intended third-party beneficiary with standing to enforce the agreement. The agreement, including the storage limitation, cannot be changed without the tribe's permission. The Prairie Island Indian Community is a federally recognized Indian Nation, located 50 minutes southeast of the Twin Cities along the Mississippi River. Contact Jake Reint at 952-346-6190 for complete survey results and tables.
SOURCE Prairie Island Indian Community