Minnesota Nuclear Power Plant Shut Down After Radioactive Water Leak

A nuclear power plant in Minnesota was forced to shut down temporarily on Friday after it was discovered that radioactive material had been leaking into the groundwater.

Xcel Energy’s nuclear power plant in Monticello, which sits along the Mississippi River, reportedly began leaking radioactive material in November 2022 — but the public was not made aware of the problem until last week.

According to reports, at least 400,000 gallons of water contaminated with radioactive tritium have leaked from the facility.

Minnesota Public Radio reports: “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.”

Following the initial discovery late last year, Xcel Energy attempted to fix the problem by installing a container to catch the contaminated water, according to a statement from the company.

Although they noted that the container was only meant to be a “short-term solution,” officials discovered this week that the container had spilled over — though the company claims that only “hundreds of gallons” of contaminated water spilled out this time.

“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 asserted in the statement.

Roughly 32% of the contaminated water has been cleaned up by the company as of Thursday, and Xcel Energy has claimed that the leak does not pose a threat to the environment or local residents.

This assessment has been corroborated by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Minnesota Department of Health. The agencies have released a statement asserting that there is “no evidence at this point to indicate a current or imminent risk to the public and will continue to monitor groundwater samples.”

It is so far unclear what caused the leak, according to Chris Clark — president of Xcel Energy’s operations in Minnesota and the Dakotas. Meanwhile, the pipe responsible for the radioactive material spill will be removed and transported to a lab for further examination, Clark noted.

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