Radioactive water leaking from Minnesota Plant

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Joined: 25 Aug 2013
Age: 65
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24 Mar 2023, 1:17 pm

A nuclear plant that leaked 400,000 gallons of radioactive water shuts down for repairs after second incident

The owner of one of Minnesota's two nuclear power plants said it will temporarily power down the facility Friday to repair a recurring leak of radioactive water discovered this week, occurring as state regulators had been monitoring the effects of an initial spill four months ago.

While Xcel Energy said in a news release Thursday that there is "no risk to the public or the environment" with the latest incident at the Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant, the city said it would test the municipal water supply out of precaution.

"The safety of Monticello's residents has been and continues to be our number one priority," Mayor Lloyd Hilgart said in a statement Friday. "We are glad Xcel Energy was closely monitoring the situation and decided to shut down the plant to make permanent repairs immediately to address the recurring issue of water containing tritium leaking from" the plant.

The company added that the leak of water containing tritium, a mildly radioactive form of hydrogen, is "fully contained on-site and has not been detected beyond the facility or in any local drinking water." This second leak involved hundreds of gallons of radioactive water, according to the utility company, far less than the 400,000 gallons in the leak discovered in late November.

Tritium is naturally occurring in the environment but is also a result of the production of electricity at nuclear power plants, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which says it is "one of the least dangerous radionuclides because it emits very weak radiation and leaves the body relatively quick."

In addition, it says "tritium radiation does not travel very far in air and cannot penetrate the skin."

Tritium spills do happen occasionally but are typically contained within a nuclear site, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

State officials said they waited to inform the public because they wanted to understand the full scope of the leak and Xcel Energy had not immediately identified the source.

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