SALT LAKE CITY — A massive steam generator finished its slow crawl through California, Nevada and Utah this week, arriving at a low-level nuclear waste site 70 miles west of Salt Lake City.
The equipment took 15 days to make the 852-mile trek from Southern California's San Onofre nuclear power plant. The 400-ton generator was hauled on a trailer longer than a football field and wider than three cars. It drove no faster than 25 miles per hour.
When it began its journey north of San Diego, the rig and its convoy of police cars took up four of the five lanes on Interstate 5, said Scott Andresen, spokesman for Southern California Edison. In some towns and cities, transportation officials were present to move, temporarily move or take down signs and traffic lights to ensure the 16-foot tall rig could pass.
When the trailer rolled slowly through the tiny town of Tonopah, Nev., on Saturday, both lanes of traffic were closed. Residents came out from businesses to gawk at the 192-wheel trailer, which spanned nearly 400 feet long and 22 feet wide.
"It looked like a battleship," said Andria Williams, an employee at the Jim Butler Inn and Suites. "Like a destroyer."
The nuclear load was slightly radioactive, but posed no health hazard, officials said. Someone standing next to it for an hour would get a dose of radioactivity about the same as a dental X-ray.
The trailer traveled by night in California to lessen the impact on traffic and by day on less-traveled routes in Nevada and Utah. Ultimately, the trailer and its convoy arrived nearly a week ahead of the estimated travel time of three weeks. The only delay was a two-day stop because of rain in Paris, Calif.
This was the third retired steam generator transported from the San Onofre nuclear power plant to the Energy-Solutions facility in Utah, Andresen said. The first two made the trip in 2011; a fourth was scheduled for December.
"We have learned a lot of lessons learned from the first two," Andresen said. "It went really smoothly and safely."