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Truck Loaded With Radioactive Material Exits San Diego County

New generators being prepared for installation at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station
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Above: New generators being prepared for installation at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station

A 400-foot-long big rig hauling a low-level radioactive steam generator from the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station has left San Diego County. The truck headed is slowly heading north through Riverside and San Bernardino counties en route to a plant in Utah.

The 192-wheel truck will return to San Diego County later this year for three more identical trips, according to Southern California Edison, the utility company moving the 30-year-old generator. Due to its sensitive load, the truck can only travel at night and at speeds of no more than 25 mph.

During the trek out of San Diego County, the truck was twice parked alongside two North County thoroughfares, temporarily blocking traffic lanes and creating a roadside curiosity.

Passers-by would have had to stand by the truck for an hour to receive about the same amount of radiation exposure as they would from a dental X-ray, Andresen said.

On Monday, it was parked on the eastside of Oceanside Boulevard, just east of El Camino Real, according to Oceanside police. On Tuesday, it was parked in the middle of West Mission Road, near North Andreasen Drive in Escondido.

Early Wednesday, the California Highway Patrol escorted the massive truck out of San Diego County and into Riverside County, where it parked near Winchester and Margarita roads in Temecula overnight.

The 823-mile trip to Clive, Utah, will take three weeks. The exact path of the truck - which is longer than a football field - was being kept under wraps for security reasons.

Once in Utah, the truck will be broken down into seven pieces and shipped back to San Onofre, then reassembled to haul a second generator. The process will be repeated through December until a total of four radioactive steam generators from San Onofre are in Utah for disposal, Andresen said.

The generators are being moved because they have each been replaced by new, nearly identical steam generators brought to California from Japan over the past two years as part of a $674 million project. Southern California Edison decided to replace the large metal capsules after engineers spotted microscopic cracks in some of the generators' internal plumbing.

The generators help to convert the heat of nuclear fission into steam to spin a plant's electricity-generating turbines.

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