400,000 gallons of radioactive water leak from Minnesota power plant
At least 400,000 gallons of radioactive water leaked from a Minnesota nuclear power plant in November – but officials didn’t publicly reveal the spill until Thursday.
Minnesota regulators shared the baffling development on Thursday and said they were monitoring the cleanup of Xcel Energy’s Monticello nuclear plant.
While the energy company reported the tritium-containing water leak to state and federal authorities and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission last fall, state officials said they are waiting to hear about it. the public until they have more information.
The four-month delay in announcing the leak to the public has raised alarm about public safety and transparency. However, industry experts said Friday there was never a threat to public health because the radioactive water never reached a level that would have required public notification.
“It’s something we struggle with because anything nuclear is such a concern,” said Victoria Mitlyng, spokeswoman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “The concern is very, very understandable. That’s why I want to further clarify the fact that the public in Minnesota, the people, the community near the plant, were not and are not in danger.
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency spokesman Michael Rafferty said Thursday that officials knew one of the plant’s monitoring wells contained tritium in November, but “Xcel had no not yet identified the source of the leak and its location.
“Now that we have all the information on where the leak happened, how much was released into the groundwater and whether the contaminated groundwater moved past the location of origin, we share that information,” Rafferty said.
Xcel said the leak came from a pipe between two buildings.
Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen found naturally in the environment and a common by-product of nuclear power plant operations. It emits a weak form of beta radiation that doesn’t travel very far and can’t penetrate human skin, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The chemical only poses a health risk to people who have consumed a large amount of tritium, according to Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear energy safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists. The risk is contained if the plume stays on the company site, which Xcel Energy and Minnesota officials say it does.
Lyman said if officials are certain he hasn’t left the confines of the power plant, people shouldn’t worry about their health or safety.
“Xcel Energy took prompt action to contain the leak to the plant site, which poses no risk to the health and safety of the local community or the environment,” the utility based in London said. Minneapolis in a statement.
Mitlyng said nuclear power plants are not required to report all tritium leaks to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but Xcel had agreed to report some leaks to the state, which in turn shares them with the commission.
On November 23, the commission posted a notification about the leak on its website, which it classified as non-urgent and said it was under investigation. No further notice was ever given to the public until Thursday.
There’s no way for tritium to get into drinking water, Mitlyng said. The plant has groundwater monitoring wells, and plant employees regularly track the progress of contaminants by examining which wells are detecting higher amounts.
Xcel said it has recovered about 25% of the tritium spilled so far, as Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspectors are also on site monitoring the response.
The company said it plans to install a permanent solution this spring.
With post wires