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Decommissioned nuclear reactor coming to Nevada roads

Updated June 15, 2020 - 9:24 am

You may have heard the term “wide load,” but one load hitting Silver State highways later this month will take that to another level.

The load is a 1.5 million-pound, 16.5-foot-diameter decommissioned reactor pressure vessel from Southern California Edison’s San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station that will set out on Nevada highways starting June 29, according to Tony Illia, Nevada Department of Transportation spokesman.

The reactor will mark the largest item to ever travel on Nevada roads when it begins the final leg of its retirement journey, heading for Utah.

“This record-sized move over state highways marks the culmination of over a year of planning and coordination,” Illia said. “It’s the heaviest load to ever traverse Nevada roadways.”

The vessel arrived May 28 in North Las Vegas and is being staged at Apex Industrial Park. It will be loaded onto a custom-made, 122-foot-long, 45-axle over-the-road trailer, which arrived on site in eight pieces and is being assembled by cranes.

“The load is being moved across the state using six heavy-duty Class 8 trucks with four tractors pushing and two pulling using a series of interconnecting tow bars to create a 23-foot-tall by 306.5-foot-long train that will be the same length as the Statue of Liberty laid on its side,” Illia said.

There will be combined 4,000-horsepower used to transport the configuration, which will weigh in at a massive 2.4 million pounds.

The load will be dispersed across 460 total tires, up to 18 inches in width to prevent damage to state roads, bridges or drainage facilities, according to Illia.

The truckload will be accompanied by a pair Nevada Highway Patrol trooper pilot cars, traveling at a speed of 5 to 10 mph. Emmert International, which specializes in moving large equipment, is contracted to deliver the massive object to its burial ground.

The contractor will reinforce up to nine drainage culverts along the route using hydraulic jacks to prevent damage to public infrastructure, Illia said.

With the speed restrictions, it’s anticipated it will take seven days to travel the approximately 450 miles to reach its destination at Energy Solutions’ Nuclear Waste Facility in Clive, Utah, about 75 miles from Salt Lake City.

The proposed travel route, which will keep the load off Interstate 15, will take U.S. Highway 93 to state Route 318 to U.S. Highway 6 back onto U.S. 93, exiting at Wendover Boulevard to Florence Way then back onto Interstate 80 into Utah.

“The permitted load will only be allowed to travel Monday through Friday from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset,” Illia said.

The reactor was transported from California to Southern Nevada via rail on a 36-axle Schnabel train car that weighed 2.2 million pounds.

The canister has the least hazardous radioactive waste classification available by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at less than 0.1 millirem an hour, or 500 times below the U.S. Department of Transportation limit.

“A chest X-ray, by comparison, provides a dose of 10 millirem,” Illia said.

The reactor started generating electricity in 1968 and was pulled from service in 1992. It has been stored on the California plant enclosed in a carbon steel jacket since 2002.

The 2-inch-thick carbon steel cylindrical canister has 3-inch thick top and bottom plates, and it was filled with grout, sealed and safely stored. It also has a 3-inch-thick carbon steel liner for additional radiation shielding.

“There was never any liquid stored inside the container,” Illia said.

I-15 lane closures

Motorists can expect travel effects on Interstate 15 over the next week and a half as crews carry out work on the high occupancy vehicle lanes.

The HOV lanes along I-15 north and southbound between Spring Mountain and Flamingo roads will be closed from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. nightly, through June 24. The temporary lane closures are needed to repair median barrier rail damage caused by a crash, the Nevada Department of Transportation announced last week.

Motorists should use caution while traveling through the work zone, heeding construction signage, and take an alternate route if possible.

DMV offices reopen

Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles offices will reopen Monday following a nearly three-month closure due to the coronavirus.

The reopening will mark the first time since March 17 that motorists will be allowed inside DMV locations to complete transactions.

Those who had a driver’s license renewal, a vehicle registration or any other time-sensitive document that lapsed during the closure have 90-day extensions. Those whose document expires between March 16 and June 16 will have 90 days from reopening to take care of their transaction. Those whose document falls within 30 days after June 16 have 60 days to complete their transactions.

“The DMV will not be offering appointments through our website for at least the week of June 15,” Kevin Malone, DMV spokesman said in a statement. “The staff has been rescheduling customers with previous appointments and there are no slots available.”

Send questions and comments to roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com. Please include your phone number. Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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