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Reactor Arrives for Burial

An old decommissioned nuclear reactor from Oregon is making the final leg of a journey that'll result in its burial at the Hanford nuclear reservation later this week, reports CBS News Reporter Stephan Kaufman.

The 1,000-ton reactor traveled up the Columbia River from Oregon To Washington.

Michelle Gerber with Hanford contractor Fluor-Daniel says the last 20 miles of the trip will be made on land, with the reactor placed on a special transport vehicle.

"It's a crawler and it's bright blue, kind of pretty," she told CBS Radio News. "It's got over 600 tires on it and the speed limit for this vehicle will be 1.5 miles per hour."

The actual burial process will take three days. It's scheduled to begin Sunday night.

Gerber doesn't expect the reactor to break free of its moorings on the crawler. "We move... decommissioned submarine reactor vessels up onto the Hanford site for burial several times a year and we never had any problem like that."

Fluor-Daniel has planned carefully the land portion of the move carefully over several months. "We've done load surveys of the roads," said Gerber. "We've done all kinds of checks for pipelines that may be underneath or steam lines that may be overhead" as well as the heights of electrical power lines.

The reactor heading up the Columbia River.

It took about 36 hours for tugs to bring the vessel, emptied of its uranium fuel, up 270 miles of river from the dismantled Trojan Nuclear Plant west of Portland, Ore. That included a two-hour precautionary stop early Sunday at Pasco to wait for daylight on the last 10-mile stretch.

The river voyage past Portland made it the first commercial reactor of that size and level of contamination to pass so near a major American city, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

No demonstrators were on hand when the barge docked at the nearby river port of Benton, part of a region of south-central Washington that has been closely tied to nuclear development since World War II.

Instead, a handful of people stood atop a bluff a couple hundreds yards away with video cameras.

Portland General Electric already had shipped Trojan's contaminated steam generators upriver to Hanford since 1995, and the Navy often ships reactors from submarines and cruisers up the Columbia for burial at the site.

Although it no longer contains its uranium fuel, the Trojan reactor vessel contains 15 times as much radioactivity as those objects, according to state officials.

However, after being filled with concrete and encasd in 6-inch-thick steel, the reactor was considered safe for shipment. Workers handling it wear no more protection than a hard hat.

The Trojan plant operated for 16 years, generating enough electricity to supply all of Portland.

It was shut down in 1993, two decades earlier than planned, after a series of problems including a faulty safety system that drew federal fines, an accidental release of radioactive gases and cracked steam tubes.

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