Radioactive water leak at US power plant

Image by Kristina Postnikova/Shutterstock

US nuclear safety experts are working to clean up a radioactive water leak from a power plant in Minnesota.

As reported by the BBC, officials are monitoring the clearance of 400,000 gallons of radioactive water spilled from a pipe at the Monticello nuclear power plant.

According to Xcel Energy, the utility company in charge of the plant, the spillage was “fully contained on-site and has not been detected beyond the facility”.

The leak was first discovered in late November, but was not notified to the public until this week.

State officials have declared that the spillage does not pose an immediate public health risk. The water is said to contain tritium, a common by-product of nuclear plant operations that is a naturally occurring radioactive isotope of hydrogen.

Tritium emits a weak form of beta radiation that does not travel very far in air and cannot penetrate human skin, according to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

Spillages of this material are said to occur occasionally at nuclear plants, but are typically contained on-site and rarely affect public health or safety, according to the NRC.

Thankfully the radioactive water did not reach the nearby Mississippi River, and Xcel has said it may build above-ground storage tanks to store the contaminated water while the company decides how to treat, reuse or dispose of it.


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Written by

Glenn Wickman