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Connecticut Nuclear Reactor Headed to South Carolina

Paraphrased by:
Steve Waldrop
December 9, 2003

Haddam, Conn.-- Officials at the decommissioned Connecticut Yankee nuclear power plant plan to ship a 31-foot high, 820-ton reactor vessel to South Carolina.

The vessel, at one time, held highly radioactive nuclear fuel rods used to make electricity, will be placed on a barge and brought down the Connecticut River to Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean in a voyage expected to take approximately 10 days.

The reactor vessel will be encased in concrete and steel to protect people and the environment from radiation. The Coast Guard will accompany the barge on the first leg of the journey, and the state Department of Environmental Protection will make sure the vessel is securely attached to the barge.

It's destination is to the Chem Nuclear low-level radioactive waste disposal site near Barnwell, South Carolina.

"This represents one of the most radioactive components left at the site, with the exception of the spent fuel.Once you can remove that you can proceed with a lot of the decommissioning work," said Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The reactor vessel was completed in 1968 and helped produce more than 110 billion kilowatt hours of electricity over 28 years. The radioactive isotopes are expected to fully decay in 300 years.

Connceticut Yankee spokeswoman, Kelley Smith, said that the public will not be exposed to unsafe radiation levels during the trip to South Carolina.

A security detail will not accompany the transport barge, because Connecticut Yankee does not consider the vessel a target for terrorism, Smith said. She said it is not in a form that would be useful to terrorists.

"The removal and shipment of the reactor vessel is one of the more important decommissioning milestones because it provides us unfettered access to the containment dome to conduct a radiological cleanup that will prepare the dome for eventual demolition," Smith said.

Federal authorities have approved a transportation plan for the reactor vessel that includes safe harbor ports as a contingency for severe weather or loss of backup radio communication.

Antinuclear activists said the packaged reactor vessel remains a threat to the health and safety of the population of Barnwell, S.C.