Residents shocked as officials wait 4 months to tell them about 400,000 gallons of radioactive water that leaked from nuclear plant
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Featured Image Credit: 5ABC KSTP
Residents of a Minnesota town have been left in shock when they recently learned that the news of a radioactive leak had been kept from them for months.
Authorities waited four months before sharing that 400,000 gallons of water containing tritium — a radioactive isotope of hydrogen used as a nuclear fusion fuel among other things — had leaked from Xcel Energy's Monticello nuclear power plant in late November last year.
The plant is situated on the banks of the Mississippi River about 35 miles from Minneapolis, with the closest neighbourhood being located about a mile from the plant.
After the accident was made public earlier this week, residents voiced their frustration over being kept in the dark about their safety.
"It happened in November? It would have been nice to know since we live next to the power plant," Monticello resident Daniel Fure told local news station KSTP. "The public should know what's going on. If we don't know anything about it, we can't say anything. We don't know anything about it."
Concerns started when the City of Monticello’s official Facebook page shared Xcel Energy's press release detailing the incident on Thursday (March 16).
"The City of Monticello learned about the extent of the water leak at the Monticello Plant at the end of February 2023," the statement reads.
"Since then, we have been working with Xcel and state and federal regulating agencies to understand the scope of the event, remediation, and any community impact.
"We have been and will continue to gather information to responsibly inform our community and have been requesting information be shared.
"Though the Xcel plant is within our community, the City of Monticello does not have the authority to govern the nuclear plant. As we’ve noted, the federal and state regulating agencies determine the appropriate governmental responses to incidents at the Xcel nuclear plant, including any emergency response, remedial actions and public or media releases."
According to local media, the leak has been stopped and didn't reach the river itself, meanwhile, state officials argued that they waited to get the full scope of the leak before going public with it.
"There is no evidence at this time to indicate a risk to any drinking water wells in the vicinity of the plant,” the statement added.
Enraged Monticello inhabitants responded to the news, expressing their concerns at not having been informed promptly.
"This is the first I've heard of this. I live very close to the plant. Wish they'd come check our wells," wrote Sally Berthiaume.
"Should have been told about this issue back in November when it took place," added Shari Sharp Oravetz.
A spokesperson for Xcel Energy claimed the authorities were notified on the same day the leak occurred.
"We live and work in the community, too, and the safety of our hundreds of Monticello employees and the surrounding area is a top priority," they said in a statement to UNILAD.
"We notified state and federal authorities the same day we discovered the issue and started the assessment and remediation process right away with them.
"We understand the importance of quickly informing the communities we serve if a situation poses an immediate threat to health and safety. In this case, there was no such threat.
"With no immediate safety risk, we focused on investigating the situation and containing the affected water in concert with our regulatory agencies.
"Now that we have thoroughly investigated the issue, contained the leak, and mapped out a path forward, we are now at a place where we can share with the public not only what has already been done, but what we’re going to do next. This timing allows us to provide the most accurate and complete understanding of the situation."
UNILAD has reached out to the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Minnesota Department of Health for comment.