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Regulators: Nuclear power plant leak didn’t require public notice

Minnesota Regulators knew four months ago that radioactive waste had leaked from the Monticello nuclear power plant, but didn’t announce anything about the leak until this week.

A delay in public notification of the leak in November raised questions about public safety and transparency, but industry experts said Friday there was no public health threat. They said that Excel Energy voluntarily notified national agencies, reported to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission shortly after the tritium leak was confirmed, and that a 400,000 gallon (1.5 million liter) leak of radioactive water had been given public notice. He stated that he never reached the threshold that required .

“This is something we struggle with because anything nuclear is concerned,” said Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesperson Victoria Mitling. “That concern is very understandable, which is why I want to make the fact more clear that Minnesota’s citizens, people, and communities near the power plant were not and are not at risk.” is.”

State officials said they were aware of the leak in November but were waiting to get more information before making an official announcement.

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency spokesman Michael Rafferty said Thursday, “We knew tritium was present in one of the watch wells, but Excel hadn’t identified the source of the leak or its location. “Now that we have all the information on where the leak occurred, how much was released into the groundwater, and how the contaminated groundwater moved beyond its original location, we are sharing this information.”

Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen that occurs naturally in the environment and is a common byproduct of nuclear power plant operation. According to the Nuclear Regulation Authority, it emits a weak form of beta radiation that does not travel very far and cannot penetrate human skin.

Edwin Lyman Director of Nuclear Safety Union of Concerned Scientistssaid health risks only occur if people consume fairly large amounts of tritium.Xcel Energy and Minnesota officials say the risks will be contained if the plumes stay on the company’s site.

People don’t have to worry about safety if regulators are sure they aren’t moving off-site, he said, adding that companies usually have on-site monitoring wells for levels of contaminants like tritium. He added that he would take action when he detected an increase in .

Mitling said there is no official requirement for nuclear power plants to report all tritium leaks to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Instead, Excel Energy had previously agreed to report certain tritium leaks to the state.

The Commission posted a notice of the leak on its website on November 11th. On the 23rd, the plant pointed out that it had notified the state a day earlier. The report classified the leak as non-urgent. The notice said the source of the tritium was being investigated at the time.

Beyond that, there was no general public notice until Thursday.

Rafferty said disclosure requirements were imposed on facilities, and state agencies would have notified residents immediately if there was an imminent threat to health and the environment.

Rafferty said the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has now decided to share information about its role in overseeing cleanup or contaminated water. ”

Mitlyng said there is no route for tritium to enter drinking water. The facility has groundwater monitoring wells arranged in concentric circles, allowing factory employees to track the progress of contaminants by seeing which wells detect higher amounts. Inspectors from the Nuclear Regulation Authority are also on site to monitor the response.

The company said the leak came from a pipe between the two buildings.

Xcel said it has recovered about 25% of the tritium spilled so far, and said it plans to continue recovery efforts and introduce a permanent solution this spring.

Exel is considering building above-ground storage tanks for the contaminated water it collects, and is exploring options for treatment, disposal or final disposal of the tritium and water it collects. State regulators will review the options the company chose, the state pollution control agency said.

The Regulatory Commission said tritium spills occasionally occur at nuclear power plants, but they have either been confined to nuclear power plant facilities or have been associated with very low off-site levels that have not impacted public health. Xcel Energy reported a small tritium leak in 2009 at Monticello.

The Monticello plant is located approximately 35 miles (55 kilometers) northwest. Minneapolisupstream of the city Mississippi River.

Shelby Vilma, who lives minutes from the spill site, heard news of lingering concerns about contaminated air, soil and groundwater weeks after a train derailed at the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. ,environment.

“I think it’s pretty alarming that they didn’t notify the public sooner,” Burma said. It’s hard to believe, considering how long we waited to see it.”


Reported by Phyllis new york cityBillaben, from Pierre, South Dakota. Associated Press writers Trisha Ahmed and Steve Karnowski of Minneapolis and Margaret Stafford of Kansas City, Missouri contributed to this report.

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