Xcel Energy was scheduled to take down the Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant March 24 after water containing a radioactive material leaked from the plant for a second time.

A leak of what was believed to be hundreds of gallons of water containing tritium was discovered this week from a temporary fix at the Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant, where 400,000 gallons of water with tritium leaked in November.

After identifying the source of the original leak in late-2022, Xcel Energy implemented a short-term solution to capture water from the leaking pipe and reroute it back into the plant for re-use. This solution was originally designed to prevent any new tritium from reaching the groundwater until the company could install a replacement pipe during a regularly scheduled refueling outage in mid-April.

However, monitoring equipment at the plant this week indicated a small amount of new water from the original leak had reached the groundwater.

Xcel Energy said there is no danger to the public and the utility does not anticipate any impacts to customers’ electric service. The leaked water remains contained on-site and has not been detected in any local drinking water, the utility said.

Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen that occurs naturally in the environment and is a common by-product of nuclear plant operations. It emits low levels of radiation that does not travel far and cannot penetrate human skin, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear power safety with the Union of Concerned Scientists, recently told The Associated Press that a significant health risk only would occur if people consumed fairly high amounts of tritium.

To date, Xcel Energy said it has recovered about 32% of the tritium released and will continue recovery over the course of the year.

The schedule for resuming operation at the plant is still to be determined.

The plant entered service in 1971 and has a single General Electric BWR-3 boiling water reactor with a capacity of 671 MWe.

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