Xcel Energy, a major utility company in the United States, has admitted that its Monticello nuclear power plant in Minnesota leaked over 400,000 gallons of radioactive water in November 2022. The leak, caused by a pipe between two buildings, did not extend beyond the plant site and did not pose a threat to the local community, according to Xcel Energy. However, the public is only being advised of the leakage now, several months after it occurred.
Although Xcel initially reported the leak to state officials and federal authorities when it happened in November, no public messaging was created at the time. State officials said they waited to make a public announcement to get more information about the extent of the leak and its potential impact on local water sources. The water only contains low levels of tritium, a radioactive isotope that occurs naturally, and those levels have remained below federal standards. Since discovering the leak, Xcel has spent months pumping, storing, and processing the radioactive water.
Leaks of this type have happened occasionally at nuclear plants worldwide, but the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) says that the effects are usually limited to the plant’s property, or the levels remain so low that they don’t affect public health or safety. Xcel’s Monticello plant has been in operation since 1971 and experienced at least one prior tritium leak in 2009.
While the leak did not pose an immediate risk to the public, incidents like this highlight the need for strict safety protocols and transparency in the nuclear industry. The public has a right to know when incidents like this occur, even if they do not pose an immediate threat. Furthermore, it is important to hold companies accountable for any harm caused by their operations, and to ensure that proper safeguards are in place to prevent future incidents.
The Monticello plant provides electricity to thousands of homes and businesses in Minnesota, and nuclear power is an important part of the country’s energy mix. However, incidents like this underscore the risks associated with nuclear power and the need for responsible management of these facilities. Moving forward, it is important for Xcel and other utility companies to prioritize safety and transparency in their operations, and to work closely with regulators and the public to ensure that nuclear power remains a safe and viable energy source for the future.