Xcel Energy said it plans to begin powering down its Monticello nuclear facility Friday in order to permanently repair a water leak containing tritium, which emits low levels of radiation.
According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the company reported about 400,000 gallons of water containing tritium leaked from a water pipe running between two buildings in late November. The leak wasn’t announced to the public until last week.
On Wednesday, Xcel discovered a new leak, estimated to be “in the hundreds of gallons.” The new leak is “still ongoing,” the MPCA said Thursday.
“State agencies have no evidence at this point to indicate a current or imminent risk to the public and will continue to monitor groundwater samples. Should an imminent risk arise, we will inform the public promptly,” MPCA said in a press release.
Tritium is “naturally present in the environment and is commonly created in the operation of nuclear power plants,” according to Xcel.
“It emits low levels of radiation, similar to everyday materials people use and the food we all eat,” the company said.
Xcel Energy President Chris Clark said the leak “continues to pose no risk to the public or the environment.”
The company explained in a press release:
“After identifying the source of the leak late last year, which poses no health and safety risk to the local community or the environment, Xcel Energy implemented a short-term solution to capture water from the leaking pipe and reroute it back into the plant for re-use. This solution was originally designed to prevent any new tritium from reaching the groundwater until the company could install a replacement pipe during a regularly scheduled refueling outage in mid-April.
However, monitoring equipment at the plant Wednesday indicated a small amount of new water from the original leak had reached the groundwater. Upon investigation, operators discovered the temporary solution was, over the past two days, no longer capturing 100% of the leaking water. The new leakage — anticipated to be in the hundreds of gallons, a much smaller amount of water than previously leaked — will not materially increase the amount of tritium the company is working to recover and does not pose any risk to health or the environment.”
Xcel said it has recovered roughly 32% of the tritium that was leaked and will “continue recovery over the course of the next year.” The leaked water contains tritium levels that are below the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s safety thresholds, the company said.
“Ongoing monitoring from over two dozen on-site monitoring wells confirms that the leaked water remains fully contained on-site and has not been detected beyond the facility or in any local drinking water,” Xcel said last week.
Xcel Energy and state officials will be holding two informational meetings for members of the public at the Monticello Community Center: Friday, March 24 (10 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and Monday, March 27 (5 p.m. to 8 p.m.).