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4 old steam generators from San Onofre ready to hit the highway

Southern California Edison officials are preparing to move four massive retired steam generators from the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in San Diego County to a disposal site in a remote area of Utah. And, at 700,000 pounds each, moving the generators will be no small task.

Beginning this summer, each of the generators will be placed on a specially designed 400-foot-long truck and will make the 800-mile trek from the plant to Clive, Utah, passing through San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, as well as Nevada.

Southern California Edison officials want the public to be aware that the generators emit low-level radiation, but there is no health or safety threat to those living along or traveling the route.

Transfers such as this happen very often, and the level of radiation given off by the generators is extremely low, said Gil Alexander, a spokesman for Southern California Edison, which operates San Onofre.

Someone standing next to one of the generators for an hour would be exposed to a radiation level of about 5, Alexander said. By U.S. law, waste transported via road cannot exceed a level of 10.

Even more reassuring, Alexander said, should be this: People who undergo a standard dental X-ray are exposed to radiation between the levels of 4 and 15. A chest X-ray? Level 8.

"When we say this is very low-level waste and it will pose no risk to the public, we mean it," Alexander said.

The four generators created steam for the plant by moving water back and forth to the reactor. They were replaced because they had reached the end of their service life, Alexander said.

Two generators are located in each of San Onofre's two domes. The generators in the northern dome were replaced last year, and the ones in the southern dome earlier this year.

Each generator will be transported separately. The trucks carrying them will travel at 15 mph at night through California, but will travel slightly faster in remote areas of Nevada and Utah, Alexander said. The trip from San Diego County to Utah is expected to take about three weeks, and officials expect all of the generators to be moved by the end of the year.

For security reasons, Southern California Edison is not releasing the exact date or route, Alexander said, but the Press-Enterprise reported Thursday that officials from cities including Temecula, Riverside, Colton and Hesperia had confirmed permits had been issued for the loads to travel on their roads.

Twenty regulatory bodies, including city and county officials, Caltrans and the U.S. Department of Transportation, have been involved in planning the move.

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