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Nuclear Plant Shuts Down After New Leak Near Mississippi River

Federal regulators are monitoring the area amid concerns that radioactive materials could wind up in drinking water.

Xcel Energy's Monticello nuclear power plant is pictured in Monticello, Minnesota.

The operator of a Minnesota nuclear power plant said the facility would be taken offline Friday to repair a new leak near the Mississippi River, an announcement that came a week after the company and state officials belatedly acknowledged a separate leak that occurred in November.

Xcel Energy insisted in a statement Thursday that the leak at its Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant poses “no risk to the public or the environment,” but a team of federal regulators is monitoring the groundwater in the area amid concerns that radioactive materials — specifically tritium — could wind up in drinking water.

Valerie Myers, a senior health physicist with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, told a local CBS affiliate that “there are wells between the ones that are showing elevated tritium and the Mississippi that are not showing any elevated levels.”

“We are watching that because the ground flow is toward the Mississippi,” added Myers.

The Associated Press reported Friday, that “after the first leak was found in November, Xcel Energy made a short-term fix to capture water from a leaking pipe and reroute it back into the plant for re-use.”

“However, monitoring equipment indicated Wednesday that a small amount of new water from the original leak had reached the groundwater,” the outlet noted. “Operators discovered that, over the past two days, the temporary solution was no longer capturing all of the leaking water, Xcel Energy said.”

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Minnesota Department of Health said in a statement that they “have no evidence at this point to indicate a current or imminent risk to the public and will continue to monitor groundwater samples.”

“Should an imminent risk arise, we will inform the public promptly,” the agencies said. “We encourage the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which has regulatory oversight of the plant’s operations, to share ongoing public communications on the leak and on mitigation efforts to help residents best understand the situation.”

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