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Unique Trailer Delivers Radioactive Load to Utah

Tue September 13, 2011 - West Edition
Erik Pisor

A 400-ft.-long transport caravan that includes a 192-wheel trailer is currently hauling 400-ton steam generator parts from San Onofre, Calif., to a disposal facility in Clive, Utah — an 830-mi., roughly 21-day trip.

“We believe it’s the largest load ever moved this distance in the U.S,” said Justin Brevik, equipment services manager for Perkins Specialized Transportation Contracting — the designer and owner of the trailer.

The steam generator parts — which are approximately 50 ft. long and 15 ft. in diameter — are the property of Southern California Edison’s San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and have exceeded their service life. Because the four, 400-ton parts contain very low levels of radioactivity they must be transported individually to a proper disposal site.

“This is a unique job for Southern California Edison (SCE),” said Scott Andresen, media relations for Edison. “When we started the trip in August, it was the first time SCE had done anything of this size.”

The first generator part arrived in Utah on Aug. 18, with SCE and Perkins currently preparing for the second of four shipments.

Built specifically for the transport of the massive generator parts, the 400-ton capacity trailer features 48 independent axles, which allows the trailer to operate independently and make 90-degree turns, according to Andresen.

“It’s a complicated machine,” Brevik said, adding the trailer is also equipped with all air disc brakes, wireless remote steering, and hydraulic suspension.

Prior to hitting the road, a crane is used to load one of the generator parts onto the trailer. Once ready for transport, the trailer is hooked up to and hauled by six tractor trailer trucks — a combination of Mack Titans and Kenworth C500s. According to Brevik, one Mack Titan pulls, and the other five trucks push the lengthy trailer.

Because the maximum speed of the transport is 25 mph, the trailer and trucks travel at night in densely populated areas — primarily in California — and park during the day to lessen the impact on public transportation. Once the transport reaches Nevada and Utah, the vehicles travel during the day. Throughout the 830-mi. trip, the transport is escorted either by the California, Nevada or Utah Highway Patrol.

Once the trailer reaches the disposal facility, the generator part is unloaded and the trailer is broken down into four smaller dolly sections for transport back to the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

According to Brevik, the first trip went as smooth as possible for a job of this magnitude, with only some minor air leaks and hydraulic leaks occurring along the journey.

“We’ll make up time as we learn,” he said, adding Perkins has already received inquiries from other energy companies who need similar parts hauled significant distances.

SCE’s goal is to have all four generator parts shipped to Utah by the end of the year, Andresen said, adding the planning process for the transportation of the generators took more than two years.

By replacing the aging generator parts with new state-of-the-art steam generators, SCE has increased the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station’s efficiency and enabled the plant to provide cost-effective, baseload power to Southern California homes and businesses with no greenhouse gas emissions.

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