An employee at a Minnesota nuclear power plant said Thursday that the facility leaked water last November that contained radioactive tritium, but that the contamination was confined to the plant.
Xcel Energy, which operates a nuclear plant northwest of Minneapolis in Minnesota’s Midwest region, did not say why it waited more than three months to acknowledge the leak to the public.
The company said it notified state officials and the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) after learning of the leak on November 22.
“While this spill does not pose a threat to people or the environment, we take this very seriously and are working hard to deal with it,” said Chris Clark, the association’s president.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said the company reported about 400,000 gallons of tritium-tainted water leaked from the site, but none “reached the Mississippi River or contaminated drinking water.”
Officials are “quickly reviewing information” from the site and “monitoring efforts,” the agency said.
The company said it had “recovered about 25 percent of the tritium that was released and will continue to recover over the course of a year”.
The leak came from a “water pipe between two buildings” at the Monticello nuclear power plant.
Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen that comes from nuclear power plants. It can also occur naturally in nature.
Monticello is 63 kilometers (39 miles) northwest of Minneapolis, the state’s largest city, and where Xcel Energy is headquartered.
Xcel said it discovered the leak through routine groundwater testing.
It said it had a leak in the water diversion system at the treatment plant, and would have to build “larger storage tanks…
The company said it is conducting regular tests from about a dozen groundwater monitoring wells in and around the site.
The US experienced one of the largest nuclear accidents in its history – the meltdown of the Three Mile Island reactor in Pennsylvania on March 28, 1979.
About 92 nuclear power plants provide power to millions of US homes. Smaller accidents have occurred over the years but often with near-term consequences.
© Agence France-Presse