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Driver transporting oversized load of material from former nuclear reactor in Arkansas issued citation

by Jaime Adame | November 29, 2018 at 1:28 p.m.
A pair of semi tractors makes their way Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018, up Arkansas 265 to Arkansas 170 near West Fork with the assistance of the Washington County Sheriff's Office. The truck was transporting a part of the long-decommissioned University of Arkansas SEFOR nuclear reactor to a site in Utah, with the entire vehicle being 18 feet wide and 115 feet long.

State Highway Police issued a citation Thursday morning to a driver transporting an oversized load of material from a former nuclear reactor test site, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation said.

Material from the Southwest Experimental Fast Oxide Reactor in Washington County was headed out-of-state after departing from the former reactor site about 20 miles southwest of Fayetteville, said Danny Straessle.

“The driver got off-route and we issued a citation,” Straessle said.

While on Interstate 49 northbound at Greenland, south of Fayetteville, the truck hauling the oversized load — the transport was listed on a permit as having 407,000 pounds of total gross weight — failed to take Exit 58 to avoid driving over a bridge, Straessle said.

“It was not recommended to put that load on that overpass,” Straessle said.

The permit issued by the state for the transport specified that the driver should “ramp-off, ramp-on,” taking the exit and then quickly getting back on the highway, Straessle said.

The citation was not issued immediately but at another planned exit, Straessle said. The result will be similar to a traffic ticket, Straessle said.

“Whatever court takes it on has to decide if the driver needs to appear or just pay the fine,” Straessle said.

The 20-megawatt SEFOR reactor stopped operating in the early 1970s. Dean Wheeler, project manager with the company overseeing the clean-up, Energy Solutions, has said the fuel was removed after the reactor ceased operations. Since 1975, the site has been owned by the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

A $10.5 million U.S. Department of Energy grant announced in October 2016 jump-started cleanup work, with additional federal funding paying for a clean-up estimated by the university to cost $26.1 million.

In October, the reactor vessel, the radioactive heart of the site, was placed into a specially-designed containment vessel scheduled for transport to the Nevada National Security Site. The load transported Thursday could not be immediately confirmed to be the same vessel.

Straessle said the load exited the state and headed into Missouri at about 11 a.m., and university officials have said the full site clean-up may be completed next year.


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