Minnesota/US: A nuclear power plant in US’s Minnesota discharged a minimum of 400,000 gallons of radioactive water in November, which was not disclosed to the public until Thursday.
The regulators in Minnesota revealed that they had been monitoring the cleanup efforts at the Monticello nuclear plant and announced the incident to the public, stated a BBC report.
The water contaminated with tritium, a common byproduct of nuclear reactor operations, was found to be involved in the incident.
As per the company’s statement, the leakage was found to be originating from a pipeline that connects two buildings.
The fact that the public was not informed about the November leakage promptly gave rise to concerns regarding transparency and public safety.
However, industry experts confirmed on Friday that there was never a danger to public health posed by the incident.
According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), tritium is a hydrogen-based radioactive isotope that emits low-energy beta radiation that cannot penetrate human skin and does not travel far in the air.
The NRC also notes that although tritium spills at nuclear power plants do occur, they are generally localized and pose a low risk to public safety and health. Xcel Energy, on November 21, initially detected the leakage from a conduit connecting two structures.
According to a report citing the Minnesota Department of Health, the largest city in the state, Minneapolis, is located approximately 35 miles (56 km) upstream of the Mississippi River from the nuclear facility, and the recent leak did not affect the river.
In a statement, Mayor Lloyd Hilgart stated, “Though the Xcel plant is within our community, the City of Monticello does not have the authority to govern the nuclear plant. If state or federal oversight agencies determine that there is any potential or actual impact to the City’s drinking water supply or infrastructure, the City will immediately notify the public with assistance from these agencies.”
Currently, approximately 25 per cent of the tritium that was released has been retrieved, and the company is considering constructing storage tanks above ground to contain the contaminated water.
Xcel Energy reported that their crews have inspected all possible areas of leakage in the plant and that a laboratory will be examining the specific pipe that caused the spill.