Xcel Energy Reports Tritium Leak at Monticello Nuclear Plant, MDH Assures No Risk to Public
Xcel Energy has reported a water leak containing tritium at its Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant in Minnesota. The leak was found during routine groundwater monitoring on November 22nd and reported to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that same day. It is estimated that about 400,000 gallons of the water containing tritium leaked from a water pipe running between two buildings.
Tritium is an isotope of hydrogen that produces low levels of radiation and is commonly created in the operation of nuclear power plants. It is present in small amounts in the environment and can potentially affect people if breathed in or ingested. However, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) says the public’s exposure to tritium from a nuclear power plant “should be zero.”
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and Xcel Energy reported that the flow of the contaminated water was contained to the Xcel site and has not reached the Mississippi River or contaminated any drinking water sources. The company will analyze the pipe to try to find out what caused it to break and is monitoring the plume at 24 well points.
Xcel is paying for sampling, pumping, and temporary treatment of the contaminated water, and is also pumping and processing the water and storing it for reuse. It has recovered about 25% of the tritium released, and is considering options to dispose of the collected tritium, which will be reviewed by Minnesota state agencies.
The company is in the process of applying for a 20 year license extension for the Monticello plant, which is set to expire in 2030. Ms. Viktoria Mitlyng, a representative of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), reported that the leak did not exceed the NRC safety standard and thus, the plan was in compliance with the rules. She also noted that tritium leaks “are not uncommon for nuclear plants.”
The city of Monticello has issued a statement saying its drinking water supply was not affected by the leak, which happened outside the area from which they draw groundwater for municipal wells.
Xcel Energy is working to clean up the leak and insists there is no danger to the general public. The firm declared that it is administering more frequent examinations from around twenty-four groundwater surveillance wells in and around the area.
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