Nuclear power plant forced to shut down after contaminated radioactive water discovered leaking from plant

News & Politics

A nuclear power plant in Minnesota temporarily shut down for repairs on Friday after officials discovered that radioactive material was leaking into the groundwater.

At least 400,000 gallons of water contaminated with radioactive tritium have leaked from Xcel Energy’s nuclear power plant in Monticello, which sits along the Mississippi River. The leak was first made public last week. But the plant was forced to shut down after monitoring equipment detected more radioactive water had leaked.

From Minnesota Public Radio:

Tritium is a mildly radioactive form of hydrogen that occurs naturally in the environment but also during nuclear power production. It mixes with oxygen to produce radioactive water. State and federal officials say it’s hazardous only if ingested in large quantities.

After the initial discovery last November, Xcel Energy installed a container to catch the contaminated water, a statement from Xcel Energy said. Though it was meant to be a “short-term solution,” it was discovered this week that the container had spilled over.

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This time, only “hundreds of gallons” of contaminated water spilled into the environment, the company said.

“Ongoing monitoring from over two dozen on-site monitoring wells confirms that the leaked water remains fully contained on-site and has not been detected beyond the facility or in any local drinking water,” Xcel Energy explained in a statement.

As of Thursday, Xcel Energy had cleaned up about 32% of the leaked radioactive water. The company said the leak does not pose a threat to the environment or residents.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Minnesota Department of Health corroborated the assessment, saying there is “no evidence at this point to indicate a current or imminent risk to the public and will continue to monitor groundwater samples.”

Chris Clark, president of Xcel Energy’s operations in Minnesota and the Dakotas, said that while it was not exactly clear what caused the leak, the pipe responsible for the spill will be removed and sent to a laboratory for testing.

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