ST.. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota regulators said Thursday they’re monitoring the cleanup of a leak of 400,000 gallons of radioactive water from Xcel Energy’s Monticello nuclear power plant, and the company said there’s no danger to the public.
“Xcel Energy took swift action to contain the leak to 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. State officials said they waited to get more information before going public with it.
“We knew there was a presence of tritium in one monitoring well, however Xcel had not yet identified the source of the leak and its location,” 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 groundwater, and that contaminated groundwater had moved beyond the original location, we are sharing this information,” he said, adding the water remains contained on Xcel’s property and poses no immediate public health risk.
The company said it notified the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the state on Nov. 22, the day after it confirmed the leak, which came from a pipe between two buildings. Since then, it has been pumping groundwater, storing and processing the contaminated water, which contains tritium levels below federal thresholds.
“Ongoing monitoring from over two dozen on-site monitoring wells confirms that the leaked water is fully contained on-site and has not been detected beyond the facility or in any local drinking water,” the Xcel Energy statement said.
When asked why Xcel Energy didn’t notify the public earlier, the company said: “We understand the importance of quickly informing the communities we serve if a situation poses an immediate threat to health and safety. In this case, there was no such threat.” The company said it focused on investigating the situation, containing the affected water and figuring out next steps.
The Monticello plant is about 35 miles (55 kilometers) northwest of Minneapolis, upstream from the city on the Mississippi River.
Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen that occurs naturally in the environment and is a common by-product of nuclear plant operations. It emits a weak form of beta…
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