Hundreds of fish KILLED following nuclear power plant radioactive leak in Minnesota

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    by Belle Carter, DC Clothesline:

    The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has confirmed that hundreds of fish were killed after a nuclear power plant was forced to shut down due to radioactive leak.

    An estimated 230 fish were killed following the shutdown, which was initiated Friday, March 24, after another leak was discovered at the Xcel Energy Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant (XES) near Minneapolis.

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    “As part of its normal operations, warm water from the Monticello plant enters the river, which the fish get used to. The fish kill is unfortunate, but not unexpected given the significant temperature change that can occur when warm water from the plant stops flowing to the river during a shutdown in operations,” said MPCA in a statement released Monday, March 27.

    Those killed include bass, channel catfish, common carp and one or more species of sucker fish.

    According to reports, attempts to fix the problem resulted in further contamination of the land around the facility. Monitoring equipment at the site showed that hundreds of gallons of contaminated water had escaped since the first repair.

    The plant, meanwhile, insisted that the leak posed no threat to public safety and has since been fixed.

    “No drinking water concern, no safety concern, no concern to the environment,” said Chris Clark, president of XES in Minnesota. “We’ll let the plant cool, we’ll cut that pipe out, we’ll send that pipe out to a lab and do a full root cause analysis of why that pipe failed.”

    Clark added there was no threat to groundwater in the area and he also doesn’t anticipate any impact on electric service. Even if the plant were to stay offline during peak winter or peak summer needs, the company has “enough margin” that they’ll have the ability to provide service during those times, he said.

    However, the MPCA acknowledged that some of the material was found in groundwater around the plant, which ultimately flowed into the Mississippi.

    According to reports, the contaminated water carried the radioactive isotope tritium, 400,000 gallons of which poured into the ground from a broken pipe before the leak was noticed last November. Though the plant operator and local government were aware of the issue for months, the public was not informed until mid-March. (Related: German nuclear power plant stops operations following leak.)

    Tritium is a mildly radioactive isotope of hydrogen that is often found in water used to cool nuclear reactors. The only way it can affect people is if they breathe it in or drink tritiated water, said Daniel Huff, an assistant commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health.

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