An energy giant that manages the nuclear power plant in the city of Monticello, Minnesota, has confirmed that 400,000 gallons of contaminated water has leaked out of its nuclear power plant.
Reports indicate the leak was initially detected by the Monticello nuclear power plant four months ago, in November 2022, and was reported immediately to state and federal regulators. However, it wasn't until last week that the public was made aware of the situation. Xcel Energy, the energy giant that runs the Monticello nuclear power plant, issued a press release where it states that it took "swift action" to contain the leak to the plant site and that the contaminated water is "fully contained on-site".
Notably, the press release states the leak poses no health or safety risk to the local community or environment and hasn't been detected beyond the facility itself, which, according to Xcel Energy, means it hasn't been detected in any local drinking water. As for the water, Xcel Energy confirmed that the 400,000 gallons contained tritium, a naturally occurring form of hydrogen that emits a weak form of radiation. Tritium can't travel long distances in the air or penetrate the skin, according to officials with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
"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 leak "is fully contained on-site and has not been detected beyond the facility or in any local drinking water," the company said.
So, how did this happen? According to reports from officials, the leak can be traced back to a water pipe running between two buildings on the site. The leak resulted in approximately 400,000 gallons of contaminated water spilling out onto the facility's ground, which is about the same amount of water as an Olympic swimming pool filled to 60% of its total volume.
Furthermore, Xcel Energy chose to refrain from notifying the public of the incident because it decided it was focused on investigating the situation and containing the affected water with the help of regulatory agency guidelines. Additionally, a spokesperson for Xcel Energy explained to NPR that now four months has passed, the company is in a much better position to give accurate information regarding the event, what has been done so far, and what will be done in the future.
"We focused on investigating the situation and containing the affected water in concert with our regulatory agencies," Xcel spokesperson Lacey Nygard said when asked about the delay in notifying the public. "We are now at a place where we can share with the public not only what has already been done, but what we're going to do next. This timing allows us to provide the most accurate and complete understanding of the situation."
Michael Rafferty, a spokesperson for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, spoke to NPR and echoed the same calming sentiments about the leak not being a threat to the environment and local residents. According to Rafferty, the situation at Xcel Energy's Monticello site did not and still doesn't pose a threat to residents' health.
"Minnesota state agencies are deeply committed to our role in protecting human health and the environment and take seriously our responsibility to promptly inform the public when a situation presents any sort of current or imminent risk. The situation at Xcel Energy's Monticello site did not - and still does not - present an imminent threat to residents' health," Rafferty said.
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