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Low-radiation tools missing from Minnesota nuclear plant

RED WING, Minn. - Prairie Island nuclear plant's annual inventory identified six missing low-level radioactive tools and devices, according to a posting on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Web site.

The plant's owner, Xcel Energy, notified the NRC this week and the agency posted a report on its Web site late Tuesday that two items had high enough radioactivity to require automatic notification. One of those has since been found.

The situation does not pose a safety threat, Xcel Energy and NRC officials said.

The amount of radioactive material in each source is significantly less than that of a standard residential smoke detector, which requires no special handling for disposal, Xcel noted in a prepared statement.

"Although the radiation level of these sources is low and poses no risk to the public or the environment, Prairie Island is committed to maintaining the high standards established by the NRC," site Vice President Mark Schimmel said in a statement.

Plant workers will take internal corrective measures to determine what happened and prevent it from recurring. He said the plant will send the NRC a revised report once the investigation is complete.

The inventory concluded Dec. 18 and the nuclear plant radiation protection specialist listed six items as lost. The two key items - a radiation detector and a calibrator - came from separate shops at the plant.

The other four items' radiation levels are below reportable levels, the NRC said.

In December, the NRC flagged the local nuclear plant for growing risk of human error and potential dangers.

The Republican Eagle in Red Wing, Minn., is owned by Forum Communications Co.