Image: 031203nukewaste_vlarge8a
A steel and concrete tube holding the decommissioned nuclear reactor vessel sits in a secured holding area at the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant on Oct. 21.
updated 12/3/2003 10:33:47 AM ET 2003-12-03T15:33:47

A plan to get a 770-ton piece of nuclear waste to an East Coast burial site by shipping it around South America has been approved despite concerns from environmentalists.

Southern California Edison was cleared to ship a decommissioned nuclear reactor vessel from its San Onofre plant to a dump for low-level nuclear waste in Barnwell, S.C. The 11,000-mile trek around the tip of South America will be the longest journey for a piece of nuclear waste in U.S. history.

The reactor can’t go through the Panama Canal because it is over the canal’s weight limit for nuclear waste, and Edison said shipping it by rail would be too expensive.

The federal Department of Transportation issued the final permit on Monday, saying Edison had satisfied safety requirements.

But environmentalists have criticized the plan.

“It’s best to secure it on site than risk having it end up being ’stored’ forever on the bottom of the ocean or leaking radiation in a trench in South Carolina,” Tom Clements of Greenpeace International’s nuclear campaign had said earlier.

Edison did not say when the move will take place. Several contractors will need time to prepare, spokesman Ray Golden said.

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