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Minnesota agencies monitoring radioactive chemical leak in Monticello

The Minnesota Pollution Control agency says the tritium leak hasn't left the facility or contaminated drinking water sources.
Credit: KARE 11
Minnesotan agencies monitoring radioactive chemical leak at Xcel Energy plant in Monticello

MONTICELLO, Minn. — The Minnesota Department of Health and other state agencies are monitoring a nuclear power plant in Monticello after 400,000 gallons of water containing a radioactive chemical leaked into the ground at the site. 

Xcel Energy first reported the leak to the Minnesota Duty Officer and Nuclear Regulatory Commission in late Nov. 2022, according to a release. 

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) agency says the leak hasn't left the facility or contaminated drinking water sources.

The leak came from a water pipe that runs between two buildings on the site and involves tritium, a naturally occurring radioactive form of hydrogen that is produced in the atmosphere and is a byproduct of electricity production by nuclear power plants, according to the MPCA.

Xcel Energy is pumping contaminated water through extraction wells, some of which are being reused on the site. 

The MPCA, MDH, and Minnesota Department of Natural resources are reviewing data, well sampling results provided by Xcel Energy, and overseeing remediation efforts, according to the statement. 

“Our top priority is protecting residents and the environment, and the MPCA is working closely with other state agencies to oversee Xcel Energy’s monitoring data and cleanup activities,” said Kirk Koudelka, MPCA assistant commissioner for land and strategic initiatives, in a statement. “We are working to ensure this cleanup is concluded as thoroughly as possible with minimal or no risk to drinking water supplies.” 

According to Xcel Energy, the agency has recovered about 25% of the tritium that was released and says it will continue recovery throughout the next year. To contain the leak, Xcel said the facility is diverting water to an in-plant treatment system which will prevent additional water from leaving the plant and will install a permanent solution in the spring.

“We have taken comprehensive measures to address this situation on-site at the plant. While this leak does not pose a risk to the public or the environment, we take this very seriously and are working to safely address the situation,” said Chris Clark, president of Xcel Energy–Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, in a statement. “We continue to gather and treat all potentially affected water while regularly monitoring nearby groundwater sources. We will continue to partner with local groundwater specialists, and we remain in close cooperation with state and federal regulators and our local community throughout the remediation effort.”

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