Since the 1970s, members of the Prairie Island Indian community in Minnesota have lived in the shadow of a nuclear power plant. And nuclear waste is stored next to the reserve.
“Obviously our tribal members are nervous about living next to all of this,” says Shelley Buck, vice president of the tribal council. “We don’t even get our electricity from Xcel Energy, which owns and operates the Prairie Island nuclear plant.
She says that in exchange for storing nuclear waste on the island, Xcel Energy pays a state fund.
A few years ago, tribal leaders successfully pitched an idea to lawmakers: use this fund for projects that help the reservation achieve net-zero carbon emissions.
Over a three-year period, the tribe plans to install solar power, improve energy efficiency and convert buildings to run entirely on electricity.
“Our history and our energy history has been negatively tied to the nuclear power plant and the nuclear waste storage site,” Buck says. “We want to change that narrative and use that energy production as a positive force – not just for our tribe today, but for the next seven generations, as our Dakota ways teach us.”
Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak/ChavoBart Digital Media