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Minn. nuclear company shifts staff positions

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Xcel Energy is shifting some of its nuclear management staff in order to bring new perspectives to sites and positions, officials said.

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"It helps keep the organization on its toes," the company's current vice president of engineering and regulatory services, Jim Molden, said.

Molden will become site vice president at Prairie Island, Minn., in just more than a week as part of the changes. Mark Schimmel, who currently holds that title, will move to the same position at Monticello's power plant in the middle of next month.

Schimmel has been site vice president at Prairie Island since August 2009. Completing the circle, Monticello's current VP will take Molden's spot.

"You can get to a point where you really plateau on your ideas and how to motivate an organization," Molden said. "(Rotating leadership) gives you the ability to refresh and say 'Here's where we're at, here's where we need to go.'"

Molden has more than 33 years of commercial nuclear experience in a number of states, with an emphasis in maintenance, operations, engineering, security and training.

He joined Xcel Energy in November 2010 as vice president of operations support before taking his current role about a year ago.

"Jim's solid engineering background and strong facilitation skills will serve us well at Prairie Island," Xcel Energy Chief Nuclear Officer Dennis Koehl said in a statement.

Molden said he plans to work collaboratively with the team at Prairie Island to improve the plant. He said he is not dissatisfied with the current performance, but wants to improve it.

"I plan on reinvigorating the leadership team and getting us all aligned to a higher level of performance," he said.

"My management style is a pretty facilitative one," he added. "I spend a lot of time with the employees and the management team."

Becoming a site vice president is going to be very different from his current job, he said. But his previous experience mainly at plants will help him with the transition.

"This is the first time I've worked at the corporate office," he said of his current position with Xcel. "Most of my time has been in the power plants."

Nordine is a reporter for the Republican Eagle in Red Wing, Minn., which is owned by Forum Communications Co.

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