Edison shipping radioactive generator from San Onofre to Utah Sunday

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Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

View of the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant on the Pacific Ocean border of San Diego and Orange counties. The plant has been shutdown since January 31, 2012 after a radioactive steam leak and inspections which revealed accelerated wear on steam generator tubes.

Southern California Edison plans to ship a retired radioactive steam generator Sunday to Utah.

The utility (SCE) said it is the third shipment of four retired steam generator lower assemblies heading from the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) to the disposal site in Clive, Utah. 

SONGS has been in complete shutdown mode since a radioactive steam leak from one of its two reactor units on January 31, 2012. Inspections found unusual wear on steam generator tubes in both units. 

SCE has submitted a plan to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to restart one of the damaged reactor units at limited power for a short time period. There is no plan to restart the other damaged unit. The NRC has said the approval process will continue into 2013, meaning the nuclear plant, on the seaside border of San Diego and Orange counties, will not be restarted anytime soon. 

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is conducting an investigation into whether ratepayers - customers of SCE - should foot the bill for repairs and costs related to the nine-month shutdown. Edison said recently those costs are $317 million. The CPUC said the investigation could take more than one year to complete. 

Meantime, anti-nuclear activists say SONGS should be shut down permanently. 

The utility said the shipment of the 700,000 pound steam generator will pass through San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino counties before entering Nevada and Utah.

A special 400-foot-long vehicle will be used to transport the generator, which SCE said contains low levels of radiation. SCE said the exposure that a person could receive standing five-to-ten-feet away from the transport for an hour would be equivalent to a dental x-ray. 

The transport is expected to leave Sunday night and will travel by night in California and take approximately three weeks to arrive in Utah.

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