Note: The information provided below is from Duke Energy archives and a special edition of The Greenville News, published on Aug. 22, 1975.
The arrival of the first nuclear reactor vessel at Duke Energy’s Oconee Nuclear Station in Seneca, S.C., marked the end of one of modern history’s most complicated hauling jobs.
The 340-ton vessel ended its long journey in February 1970, nearly two months after leaving the Babcock and Wilcox plant in Mount Vernon, Indiana.
Enroute to its base at Oconee, the huge vessel traveled by barge, special rail car and on the world’s largest truck (at that time). It traveled the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, the Gulf of Mexico, the Florida Barge Canal, the Intercoastal Waterway, the Savannah River and 145 miles of road and rail bed.
The total distance covered was almost 2,000 miles.
The reactor vessel was set in place on Feb. 8, 1970, 55 days and 5.5 hours after it left Indiana. Oconee’s two additional reactor vessels would arrive in 1970 and 1971.
Oconee Nuclear Station unit 1 began commercial operation on July 16, 1973; the site is celebrating 50 years of reliable, carbon-free energy in 2023.
Reactor vessel stats:
- Approximately 40 feet tall
- Weighs approximately 340 tons without additional equipment attachments or fuel
- Inside diameter approximately 14 feet
- Vessel thickness 8.5 inches
- Houses 177 fuel assemblies
- A huge truck carried the load for 45 miles, moving at 5 miles per hour. Built in France, it weighed 175 tons empty, had 240 wheels and was powered by two 600-horsepower tractors. It could support up to 600 tons.
- At one point, a railroad bridge was jacked up 1 ½ feet for the truck to pass under, then it was lowered back into place.
- At another place, a custom-built set of portable barges and ramps were used to “float” the entire load across a creek. An island in the middle of the stream was cut in half to provide a straight shot to the other side.