Mar 16, 2023

Water Leak at Monticello Nuclear Plant Prompts Report from MPCA

By Jo McMullen / KVSC reporter

A routine groundwater test last fall at the Monticello Nuclear plant found that contaminated water was released with a by-product of a radioactive by product of hydrogen.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), working with the Minnesota Department of Health, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, is monitoring Xcel Energy’s efforts to clean up a release of water contaminated with tritium. It was detected at the company’s Monticello nuclear generating plant.

Xcel Energy reported the leak in late November 2022 after finding unusual results during routine groundwater monitoring. The leak has since been stopped and did not reach the Mississippi River or contaminate any drinking water sources. Officials say there is no evidence at this time indicating a risk to any drinking water wells near the plant.  

Tritium is a naturally occurring radioactive form of hydrogen that is produced in the atmosphere. It’s a byproduct of the production of electricity by nuclear power plants.

State agencies are actively reviewing data, including well sampling results provided by Xcel Energy, and overseeing efforts to clean it up.

The company reported about 400,000 gallons of the water containing tritium leaked from a water pipe running between two buildings at the Monticello facility. The leak was stopped and the company is monitoring the groundwater plume through two dozen wells. Xcel Energy is also pumping contaminated groundwater through extraction wells. The pumped water is being stored and some is being reused on site.

They’re also exploring building above ground storage tanks or installing a retention pond to store water containing tritium that has been collected during ongoing recovery activities. The state is working directly with Xcel Energy on future plans.

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