Updated at 3:45 p.m. Nov. 7, 2012
A gigantic piece of slightly radioactive nuclear equipment from San Onofre—as heavy as a 747—will be hauled down Southern California freeways starting Sunday night, the plant’s co-owner said Saturday.
Southern California Edison says crews will use a vehicle longer than a football field to transport the piece of metal that served as part of a lower assembly inside the boilers of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station for years.
The gear was housed under the containment domes until they were cut open and the boilers replaced over the past few years.
“The steam generator contains extremely low levels of radiation,” Edison said in a statement. “The exposure that a person could receive standing 5 to 10 feet away from the transport for an hour would be equivalent to a dental X-ray.”
A 400-foot-long vehicle will haul the 700,000-pound piece of steel onto Interstate 5 at San Onofre on Sunday night, the utility said. A 747-100B jumbo jet weighs 735,000 pounds at takeoff.
A similar trip—with the same vehicle and gear—took place in August 2011, according to the Orange County Register.
Industry website constructionequipmentguide.com quoted the designer and owner of the trailer as saying: “We believe it’s the largest load ever moved this distance in the U.S.”
Justin Brevik is equipment services manager for owner Perkins Specialized Transportation Contracting.
“It’s a complicated machine,” Brevik said of the trailer with a maximum speed of 25 mph. “We’ll make up time as we learn.”
Although the exact route has not been revealed, Edison said it would pass through San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. An Edison spokesman said Nov. 7 that the trailer would not be going through Las Vegas and Salt Lake City, contrary to earlier reports.
No details have been released about the exact route or schedule. The transport will be on freeways only at night, and will take three weeks to reac a disposal site at Clive, Utah, about 35 miles west of Salt Lake City.
Two new gigantic steam generators were manufactured in Japan and barged to Oceanside when the project started. They were hauled up the beaches of Camp Pendleton to San Onofre.
Edison engineers cut holes in the containment domes at San Onofre, brought the old boilers and heat exchangers out, and placed the massive new generators inside.
The old generators are in four pieces, and this would be the third shipment of huge components to Utah, said Edison, which owns the San Onofre plant along with SDG&E and the city of Riverside.
Last week, state regulators began an investigation into why the massive project essentially failed. The replacement steam generators had been redesigned by Edison and the manufacturer, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, to generate additional power in a controversial move that was not approved in advance by federal regulators.
The explosive force of steam inside the exchangers’ tubes began to tear them apart, and the station was shut off Jan. 8. The nuclear station had generated about 20 percent of the electricity delivered to 14 million residents in the Southern California Edison service area for two decades.
The California Public Utilities Commission estimates that ratepayers have spent $1.1 billion so far on fixing the problem, and buying expensive replacement power.
—City News Service contributed to this report.