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Radioactive Nuclear Reactor Traveling From Michigan to South Carolina

Paraphrased by:
Steve Waldrop
December 9, 2003

With little public notice nuclear energy experts began moving a highly radioactive reactor vessel from northern Michigan to South Carolina.

The vessel is being moved from the Big Rock Point nuclear power plant in northern Michigan. It will likely be shipped via rail through parts of Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and to a radioactive waste dump in Barnwell, South Carolina.

Although it has been dismantled, the vessel is highly radioactive due to 35 years of nuclear chain reactions (which made the metal of the reactor vessel itself radioactive) and radioactive contamination from experimental plutonium fuel rods that ruptured within it. Now, it is emitting 10 millrems per hour of radiation (equivalent to one chest X-ray), according to a spokesman for Consumer Energy, the reactors owner. U.S. Department of Transportation regulations allow radiation to be released at a rate of up to 5 rems in 30 minutes in accident conditions; that is equivalent to 500 chest X-rays. The 282- ton reactor vessel will travel by truck and train before reaching its burial site.

Before now, only three irradiated commercial nuclear power reactor pressure vessels have been shipped for burial in the United States.