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Suspicious Minnesota Nuclear Wastewater Leak

Johnny Wentzel
Courtesy of GIPHY

To use a term coined during the Among Us peak of late 2020, a Minnesota utility company is acting pretty “sus” regarding a recent radioactive material leak.

What happened: Minnesota-based power generation company Xcel Energy recently reported a 400,000-gallon leak of radioactive water from its Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant, located just outside of Minneapolis.

  • Although the leak has since been contained, critics are questioning why the leak was only reported last week, while the company first discovered it in November 2022.

The leak itself contained tritium, an isotope of hydrogen that can lead to an increased risk of cancer, if ingested in large quantities. The site is monitored by two dozen water wells with no evidence that the contaminated water has migrated beyond the facility, but it’s expected to take a year to fully remediate the site.

Could have used a heads up

Company representatives insist that Xcel operated within regulations set by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the leak did not exceed a threshold that required public notification.

Still, critics suggest the company could have warned the public anyway, like giving your neighbours a heads up before hosting a backyard rager – it’s just common courtesy.

Zoom out: Tritium leaks are not uncommon, especially in aging nuclear plants like Monticello that has been in operation since 1971.

The current license of the facility will see continued operations until at least 2030, but the recent leak could put further renewals into question. A denied renewal would be a gut-punch for the state, which has a mandate to reach net-zero carbon emissions in electricity generation by 2040.