Giant Steam Generators to be Moved from Maryland to TMI

 

510-pound parts for refurbishing again plant

 

 

By P.J. Reilly

Staff Writer, Lancaster Newspapers

 

State, county and municipal officials are making preparations now for the "monumental" journey of two gigantic, 510-ton steam generators, which will travel the length of Lancaster County as they move from Maryland to Three Mile Island.

To accommodate the generators, which are 70 feet long and 13 feet tall, temporary bridge bypasses must be built, overhead utility wires, trees and traffic signals must either be moved or removed and roads must be closed to all traffic.

"It will be an event unlike anything we've seen in my lifetime, as far as moving something goes," said Barry Smith, Manor Township's manager. "I've seen them move houses, and I thought that was pretty cool.

"But this apparently is going to be staggering."

 

The delivery of the two generators is such a huge task that the television show "Mega Movers," which airs on History Channel, is expected to film the entire journey, according to Lancaster County Commissioner Scott Martin."

'Mega Movers' follows the relocation of the biggest, heaviest and least mobile" structures in the world, according to the program's Web site.

 

AmerGen Energy LLC, which operates the TMI nuclear power plant as a subsidiary of Exelon Corp., is refurbishing its Unit 1 reactor, including replacing the unit's two steam generators at a cost of $280 million.

 

According to a fact sheet provided by AmerGen on a Web site about the project, heated water from the reactor flows through tubes in the steam generator, and the heat from that water is transferred to another separate water supply.

The heat causes the secondary water to boil and create steam. The steam then spins the turbine, which drives a generator to produce electricity.

AmerGen has contracted AREVA Inc., a French company, to build the generators at AREVA's plant in France.

The generators — each of which weighs about as much as two locomotives — are expected to be brought to the United States from France aboard a ship. They will be brought by ship up the Chesapeake Bay to the shipyards between Perryville and Port Deposit in Maryland.

From there, it will be loaded onto special trailers fitted with 17 axles that can be individually steered and trucked north through Lancaster County to TMI near Middletown.

"I was told it will take longer for them to move these things from Port Deposit to TMI than it will take for them to come to the U.S. from France on a ship," said Martin, who has attended planning meetings organized by Exelon about the generators.

Denise Woernle, AREVA's manager of corporate communications, said the trip from Maryland to TMI is expected to take 20 to 25 days because the trucks towing the generators can travel only about 5 miles per hour. And the trucks move even slower when they negotiate turns.

Along the way, preparations are under way to shore up bridges to carry the massive weight of the generators; cut down trees that will be in the way; temporarily move utility wires crossing roads on the designated route; and provide overnight parking places for the trucks and trailers, since the generators cannot be moved after dark, according to state law.

Woernle said AREVA is still working on the exact route that will be used to truck the generators through Lancaster County.

"It's very important for us to work with the municipalities to figure out any potential impacts we might have on their communities so that we can take care of them," she said.

It is expected a convoy of vehicles, including the trucks and trailers towing the generators, will head north into Lancaster County from Maryland on Route 272, Woernle said.

James Mullen, president of Robert Fulton Fire Company, said his organization has signed an agreement allowing the generators to be parked on fire company property behind the fire station on Route 272.

"It was a decent amount for us not to do anything," he said. "From what I was told, lining up a bunch of places to stop along the way is pretty important, since they can't travel at night."

The convoy is expected to stay on Route 272 all the way to Willow Street.

In Providence Township, C. William Shaffer, chairman of the supervisors, said his board signed an agreement to trim trees so that the generators can be towed northbound on the southbound lanes of Route 272 through the tunnel at Smithville.

"Apparently, the southbound tunnel is a little bit taller than the northbound tunnel, and they can fit through it," Shaffer said.

Once the convoy reaches the Willow Street area on Route 272, it's unclear which route will be followed.

Pequea Township Supervisor Bruce Groff said he learned through a letter sent by AREVA to the township that the convoy will travel on Route 741 to Route 999 to Route 441.

"When they get to Kendig Square, that's going to be a monumental mess," he said.

Manor Township's Smith said he believed the convoy was supposed to travel on River Road at some point to get to Route 441 in Washington Boro.

Smith said he did not know what road the convoy was supposed to take to get from Route 272 to River Road.

AREVA officials asked Smith if they could pay to park the convoy overnight at the township's Washington Boro Park near the intersection of routes 999 and 441.

"They said they would need the whole parking lot and I told them I just couldn't do that, because that's at a time of year when a lot of people use that park," he said. "They told me the trailers would probably crush the parking lot, but that they would pay to fix it once they left."

Smith said he also was told the generators are expected to crush stormwater pipes in many areas along the route through Lancaster County.

"The company was pretty clear they'll fix whatever they damage, but it just gives you some idea of the massive weight we're talking about," he said.

Once the convoy reaches Route 441, it is expected to follow that road through Columbia Borough and all the way to TMI.

On the north side of Chickies Hill, a special detour is planned through part of Chickies Rock County Park because the generators are too heavy for the Route 441 bridge over Chickies Creek.

The county commissioners on Tuesday voted to grant AREVA permission to build a temporary, compacted-stone road and two stream crossings over Chickies Creek and Donegal Creek in the park.

"We had to do it. This is for the good of the whole community," Martin said.

The road and crossings will allow the convoy to turn right off Route 441, cut through part of the park and then turn left onto Long Lane before returning to northbound Route 441.

James Hackett, director of the county parks department, said he expects the road and crossings to be built, used and then removed, all in the span of about five weeks, beginning in late August or early September.

The county's agreement with the company requires AREVA to plant grass and trees after the road and stream crossings are removed.

Since much — if not all — of the convoy's planned travel route through Lancaster County is on state roads, state Department of Transportation officials are monitoring the situation, said Rich Kirkpatrick, the agency's press secretary.