Residents near a nuclear power plant in Minnesota have raised concerns over public officials’ delayed notification about a ‘400,000-gallon leak of radioactive water’ containing tritium in late November.
According to reports, the incident at Xcel Energy’s Monticello nuclear power plant was only publicly confirmed for the first time on Thursday.
On 22nd November 2022, the day the leak was verified, Xcel Energy notified both the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the state.
The company has said it has been in frequent communication with state and federal regulators, as well as local officials.
It claimed that the water, which contains levels of tritium below NRC safety thresholds, has been pumped, stored, and processed by the company for reuse.
A spokesperson for Xcel Energy told ELN: “We live and work in the community, too, and the safety of our hundreds of Monticello employees and the surrounding area is a top priority.
“We notified state and federal authorities the same day we discovered the issue and started the assessment and remediation process right away with them.
“We understand the importance of quickly informing the communities we serve if a situation poses an immediate threat to health and safety. In this case, there was no such threat. With no immediate safety risk, we focused on investigating the situation and containing the affected water in concert with our regulatory agencies.
“Now that we have thoroughly investigated the issue, contained the leak, and mapped out a path forward, we are at a place where we can share with the public not only what has already been done, but what we’re going to do next. This timing allows us to provide the most accurate and complete understanding of the situation.”
A spokesperson for Minnesota Department for Health told ELN: “Minnesota state agencies are deeply committed to our role in protecting human health and the environment and take seriously our responsibility to promptly inform the public when a situation presents any sort of current or imminent risk.
“The situation at Xcel Energy’s Monticello plant did not, and still does not, pose such a risk. We understand the public’s interest in learning about such events as soon as possible and we must balance the need to inform public of such events with the potential for causing undue fear by releasing incomplete information.
“While we worked diligently to gather sufficient information about the contamination and cleanup, we strongly encouraged Xcel to be more transparent about the leak and its remediation actions. Once state agencies had information the contamination had moved toward the Mississippi River, still within the facility’s site, and had sufficient details about the cleanup process, we determined it was time to increase outreach and inform the public.
“We continue to monitor groundwater sampling and we know more about the location and potential movement of the contamination, steps being taken to control the plume, and plans for remediation including short-term storage of contaminated water.
“There is still no imminent threat to residents’ health or drinking water sources, and we are working to ensure the contamination is cleaned up as thoroughly as possible.”
A spokesperson for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told ELN: “Minnesota state agencies continue to monitor the cleanup of tritium leak at Xcel Energy Monticello Plant, which is regulated by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
“The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has been keeping EPA informed of the situation and MPCA’s activities since January.”