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Low-Level Radioactive Cargo Rolls Through Riverside, San Bernardino Counties

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TEMECULA (CBS) — A 400-foot-long big rig hauling a low-level radioactive steam generator headed north through Riverside and San Bernardino counties Thursday.

Officials said the cargo from the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in San Diego County is 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.

The 823-mile trip to Clive, Utah, will take three weeks, utility spokesman Scott Andresen told The San Diego Union-Tribune. The exact path of the truck, which is longer than a football field, was being kept under wraps for security reasons although the radioactivity of the load was very low-level.

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.

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 two more times 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The generators are being moved because they have each been replaced by new, nearly identical steam generators brought to California from Japan over the past two years as part of a $674 million project.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.

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

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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