OCEANSIDE — If you happened to be driving through Oceanside this past week, you might have spotted the biggest tractor-trailer hauling the biggest cargo you may ever see again.
The one-of-a-kind, 400-foot trailer was hauling away a section of one of the retired steam generators from the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, bound for Utah, signaling the last chapter of a 10-year, $671 million plant construction project. The generators were replaced during the past two years and the new ones were rolled up the beach from Oceanside harbor. Three more trips between now and the end of 2011 will complete the transfer process.
For 25 years, the original plant components created the steam that drives San Onofre’s massive turbines. As the components approached the end of their service life, a cost-benefit analysis found that replacing them so the plant can continue operating through its current license period – 2022 – would save customers hundreds of millions of dollars.
Because the used sections being transported to Utah contain low levels of radioactivity, they will be disposed of at a facility licensed to accept such materials.
“As with all aspects of our work at San Onofre, safety will receive our highest attention during this unusual transportation process,” said project manager Craig Harberts.
The components’ level of radioactivity is so low, and the safeguards being used so effective, that a person living along the route will receive no increased exposure from radiation due to the shipment. The U.S. Dept. of Transportation provides a radiation limit for such highway shipments – 10 millirem. Radiation from the steam generator section that will depart the plant during the coming days measures roughly half that limit.