400,000 gallons of radioactive water leak from Minnesota nuclear plant

Excel Energy is cleaning up the radioactive leak at Monticello.

Excel Energy is cleaning up the radioactive leak at Monticello.


Minnesota regulators said Thursday they are monitoring the release of 400,000 gallons of radioactive water from Xcel Energy’s Monticello nuclear power plant, and the company said there was no risk to the public. The leak was first discovered in November last year.

“Xcel Energy took immediate action to contain the spill at the plant site, which poses no health and safety risk to the local community or the environment,” the Minneapolis-based utility said in a statement.

While Xcel reported the leak of water containing tritium to state and federal authorities in late November, the spill had not been made public before Thursday.

“If at any point there was a public safety concern, we certainly would have provided more information immediately,” said Chris Clark, president of Xcel Energy-Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. CBS Minnesota on Thursday. “But we also wanted to make sure we fully understood what was going on before we started raising any concerns with the public around us.”

State officials said they were waiting to learn more before going public with it.

“We knew there was tritium in a monitoring well, but Xcel had not yet identified the source and location of the leak,” Minnesota Pollution Control Agency spokesman Michael Rafferty said.

“Now that we have all the information about where the leak occurred, how much was released into the groundwater, and where the contaminated groundwater moved beyond the original location, we’re sharing that information,” he said. Said, he added that there is water on Xcel’s property. And there is no immediate public health risk.

Minnesota Department of Health also said Its website says the spill did not reach the Mississippi River.

“Groundwater beneath the facility, it’s determined that it moves slowly in the direction of the Mississippi River, but that’s the direction it flows, or moves, underground,” Doug Weitzstein of Minnesota. director of the Industrial Division of the Pollution Control Agency, told CBS Minnesota.

Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen that occurs naturally in the atmosphere and is a common byproduct of nuclear plant operations. According to the NRC, it emits a weak form of beta radiation that does not travel very far and cannot penetrate human skin. The NRC says that a person who drank water from a peel would only get a lower dose.

The NRC says that tritium spills occur from time to time at nuclear plants, but it has repeatedly determined that they have either been confined to the plant property or involve such small off-site levels that they cannot be detected. does not affect public health or safety. Xcel reported a small tritium leak at Monticello in 2009.

Xcel said it has recovered about 25% of the spilled tritium so far, recovery efforts will continue and it will install a permanent solution this spring.

The company said it notified the Federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the state on Nov. 22, the day it confirmed the leak from a pipe between the two buildings. Since then, it has been pumping groundwater, storing and processing contaminated water, which contains tritium levels below federal limits.

“Ongoing monitoring from more than two dozen on-site monitoring wells confirms that the leaking water is contained entirely on-site and is not located outside the facility or at a local location,” Xcel Energy said in a statement. Not found in drinking water,” Xcel Energy said in a statement.

Asked why Xcel Energy didn’t notify the public earlier, the company said: “We understand the importance of immediately notifying the communities we serve if a health and safety situation arises. There is an immediate risk. In this case, there was no such risk.” The company said it focused on investigating the situation, containing the affected water and determining next steps.

The Monticello plant is about 35 miles northwest of Minneapolis, upstream from the city on the Mississippi River.

Xcel Energy is considering building an above-ground storage tank to store the contaminated water, and options for treatment, reuse, or ultimate disposal of the collected tritium and water. The MPCA said state regulators will review the company’s chosen options.

Japan is preparing to release massive amounts of treated radioactive wastewater into the ocean from the triple reactor meltdown 12 years ago at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The water contains tritium and other radioactive contaminants.

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