Statewide Survey Finds Most Minnesotans Believe Xcel Energy and State Should Honor Nuclear Waste Promise to Neighboring Indian Community

Like Tribe, Most Minnesotans Concerned About Terrorism and Dangers of Nuclear


Jan 23, 2003, 00:00 ET from Prairie Island Indian Community

    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
     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
     Contact Jake Reint at 952-346-6190 for complete survey results and tables.

SOURCE Prairie Island Indian Community