Environmental Groups Sound Alarm About Nuclear Plants

Story by Terry Carter

Nearly 4,000 gallons of water containing “small amounts” of tritium and “trace amounts” of other chemicals have been released by Prairie Island nuclear plant since November. The most recent leak happened February 3rd when 27 gallons of water overflowed a holding tank.

Mary Sandok, a spokeswoman for the plant, told the Red Wing Republican Eagle that in late November, about 3,900 gallons of water containing small amounts of tritium was released “under similar circumstances.” She said neither release posed a threat to the public or plant employees, and that the amount of tritium in the released water falls below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s limit for safe drinking water. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the most recent spill was so small, the utility wasn't required to report it.

But the advocacy groups Environment Minnesota and the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, or MPIRG, are calling attention to nuclear power in Minnesota, the aging plants that produce it, and their proximity to drinking water.

The groups have released a study that claims the drinking water for almost one million people in Minnesota could be at risk of radioactive contamination from a leak or accident at the Prairie Island or Monticello nuclear power plants.

MPIRG's executive director Josh Winters and board chair Natalie Cook talked with KFAI's Terry Carter who asked them to explain why tritium is a concern.