Groups warn drinking water threatened by nuclear power plants - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Groups warn drinking water threatened by nuclear power plants

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RED WING, Minn. (KTTC) -- Two Minnesota environmental and public interest groups released a report Wednesday warning of a threat of drinking water being contaminated by nuclear power plants along the Mississippi River.

Several researchers briefed reporters at the Red Wing Public Library, reporting that almost a million people could be affected by contaminated drinking water if a leak or accident occurred at either the Prairie Island or Monticello nuclear power plants. 

After the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan last year, researchers began checking into possible contamination of water for residents living within 50 miles of an active nuclear power plant.

Environment Minnesota and the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG) claim 75 percent of nuclear plants have leaked tritium, a radioactive hydrogen that has been known to cause cancer and genetic defects.  And they want the U.S. government to pay closer attention to the threat.

"The foundation of Xcel's monitoring equipment and programs date back to the 1970's," said Kristen Eide-Tollefson, of the PINGP Study Group.  "They are asking us - the local communities - to host an aging plant for another 20 years. The very least they could do is to respond cooperatively to our monitoring concerns."

Xcel Energy responded with a statement, saying, "When we've found elevated tritium levels -- none high enough to be a public health concern - we have investigated the cause, increased our monitoring and made changes as warranted."

Xcel also emphasized that it has been working with local, state and federal officials on any problems.

The environmental groups are asking the U.S. to complete safety reviews of all power plants and focus more on clean, renewable energy.

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