Minnesota regulators inspect 400,000-gallon radioactive leak cleanup

Minnesota regulators said that they are monitoring cleanup efforts by utility Xcel Energy following a leak of 400,000 gallons of radioactive water from its nuclear power plant.

Minnesota regulators announced Thursday that they are closely monitoring the cleanup efforts of Xcel Energy after a 400,000 gallons radioactive water leak from the utility’s Monticello Nuclear Power Plant.

In a press release, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency stated that the leak did not leave the site and has not contaminated drinking water sources.

Xcel stated in its own press release that the leak does not pose a threat to the environment or local communities. This is “as confirmed and supported by Nuclear Regulatory Commission guidelines.”

The first leak was detected in the second half of last year. Xcel reported the incident to the Minnesota Duty Officer, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in November.


The cooling towers that release heat from boiling water reactors at Xcel Energy’s Nuclear Generating Plant in Monticello, Minnesota, Oct. 2, 2019, are called . (Evan Frost/Minnesota Public Radio via AP. File)

In coordination with the Minnesota Department of Health, the MPCA stated that the leak was stopped and not reaching the Mississippi River.

It stated that there was no evidence to suggest that the plant poses a threat to drinking water wells near it.

Xcel stated that these conclusions were based on ongoing monitoring by more than two dozen monitoring wells located on-site.

According to The Associated Press, Michael Rafferty, a spokesperson for the MPCA, stated that “We knew there had been a presence tritium in one monitoring Well, but Xcel hadn’t yet identified the source and its location.”

He stated, “Now that we know all about the location of the leak, the amount released into groundwater, and whether the groundwater contaminated by the leak had moved further than the original location, this information is being shared.”

Monticello, MN., Thursday, 1/7/2000. Three miles south of Monticello’s power plant, a group of trumpeter Swans passed ice chunks that were forming in the Mississippi River. (Photo by Bruce Bispiing/Star Tribune via Getty Images.)


Xcel had reported the leakage of water containing tritium in 2022 to federal and state authorities, but the spillage was not made public until Thursday. Officials from the state said that they had waited for more information before making the news public.

“We know how important it is to quickly inform the communities we serve when there is a danger to their safety or health. Xcel stated that there was no threat in this instance.

Leakage of water containing tritium resulted from a pipe that ran between two buildings in the facility.

The Monticello nuclear power station in Monticello (Minn.) was photographed on July 24, 2008. This site was established in 1971 and has one nuclear reactor. (Photo credit should be KAREN BLEIER/AFP via Getty Images.)

Groundwater contaminated with contaminants is being pumped via extraction wells. Water is being stored, and some of it is being reused at site. It contains levels below the safety thresholds set by the regulatory commission. Xcel will install a permanent solution by the spring of next year. To store contaminated water, Xcel is looking at building storage tanks above ground.

It has so far recovered approximately 25% of the tritium that was released. This recovery will continue over the next year.


Although it is unclear what caused the leak, the company stated that it would inspect the pipe that did leak in a laboratory.

Tritium, a radioactive form naturally occurring in hydrogen, is found in the atmosphere. It is often created by the operation nuclear power plants. It emits very low levels of radiation. Because tritium is found in our environment and in the foods we eat, everyone is exposed to small amounts every day.

This report was contributed by the Associated Press.

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