Xcel: Radioactive water leaked in November at Monticello nuclear plant

Officials say cleanup continues and they're monitoring local wells

Chris Clark and Randy Fordice of Xcel Energy walk outside the company's nuclear generating plant in Monticello, Minnesota, during a tour in 2019. Officials on Thursday, March 16, 2023, acknowledged that a radioactive water leak occurred at the plant in November 2022.
Evan Frost / MPR News 2019

ST. PAUL — Water containing a radioactive form of hydrogen, known as tritium, leaked out of Xcel Energy's nuclear power plant in Monticello in November, state officials said Thursday, March 16.

According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Xcel reported that about 400,000 gallons of the water containing tritium leaked from a water pipe running between two buildings.

State officials said routine monitoring of ground water detected the radioactive form of hydrogen, a byproduct of nuclear power generation.

“The leak has been stopped and has not reached the Mississippi River or contaminated drinking water sources. There is no evidence at this time to indicate a risk to any drinking water wells in the vicinity of the plant,” the MPCA said in a statement.

The leak was reported Nov. 22, the day it was confirmed, but Xcel Energy President Chris Clark said it's unclear when the leak began.


“As we do a full root-cause analysis, we'll have a better understanding of whether that was a few days, a few weeks, a month. But we just don't know that at this point," Clark said.

Xcel said it reported the tritium leak to state and federal regulators, but the company and the MPCA have not yet said why the leak wasn't disclosed to the public until three months later.

The company said it is monitoring the groundwater plume at two dozen well points, as well as pumping out contaminated groundwater for storage.

Xcel Energy could build above-ground storage tanks or install a retention pond to store water containing tritium that has been collected during ongoing recovery activities, according to the MPCA statement.

The company is also considering options to dispose of the collected tritium. Minnesota state agencies will review those options, MPCA said.

What To Read Next
Get Local