Moving spent nuclear fuel rods: Perkins Specialized Transportation is ready

Perkins Specialized Transportation truck trailer rig
Perkins Specialized Transportation has this gigantic truck trailer rig parked in their back lot on Riverview Drive in Northfield.  (To see a large version of the photo above, right-click on it an open it in a new tab or new window.)

I got an email alert from a buddy, saying:

I was told that it will haul 800 tons and it has 198 wheels.  It will be powered by four semi tractors, two each front and back.  It is going to transport spent fuel rods from California to Utah.  The trip will take four months.  It moves at walking speed and has people walking next to it with remote controls who are involved with steering the segments. Well, I am the driver and I came form an affordable moving company.

Perkins Specialized Transportation Perkins Specialized Transportation truck trailer rig

Safety? No problem. Wikipedia says "Since 1965, approximately 3,000 shipments of spent nuclear fuel have been transported safely over the U.S.’s highways, waterways, and railroads."

See this Google video of crash testing the casks that hold the spent fuel and this document on the Safe Transportation of Spent Nuclear Fuel.


  1. Curt Benson said:

    I went out and checked out this rig and it is incredible. It is awesome that a local company has the engineering and logistics skills–and the chutzpah–to do a project like this. I’m wondering how long this trailer is–and how does it get to California? And 800 tons–is that correct?

    April 26, 2011
  2. BrucwWMorlan said:

    If 800 tons is correct I’m glad they aren’t running on township roads! I hope the empty rig isn’t on our roads. I also peeked at the rig, my truck would easily fit under that long beam, and this is almost as impressive as the vehicle that moved the shuttle into launch position (also at a walking pace). And Curt is so right, this is an incredible statement about engineering, logistics and chutzpah – a trifecta for that subset of geeks that get into this particular application of high skills and high motivations.

    April 26, 2011
  3. I don’t know if this is impressive as much as it is concerning. I would think rail would be a far safer transport for this.

    In any case, it is curious that people like to whine when we spend money to improve roads for nonmotorized users or for aesthetic, when THIS is what costs money and shreds roads (as of course do regular semis). It’s a shame we do not have a toll structure in Minnesota to have enormous users pay their fair share.

    April 26, 2011
  4. Arlen Malecha said:

    Sean –

    I don’t have a problem improving roads for nonmotorized users but we need to find a way for them to pay for said improvements.

    April 26, 2011
  5. Arlen, that’s exactly my point. Building and maintaining roads for vehicles like this is DRAMATICALLY more expensive. It costs thousands and thousands of times more expensive to build/maintain for something like this than for a nonmotorized user. Bridges have to be stronger, pavement has to be thicker, curves have to be made broad enough, adequate drainage systems need to be development, more square footage needs to be cleared of snow. There are many many many public costs that come along with large vehicles.

    When a licensing fee for bikes was proposed at $30/yr, a good point was made that we ought to simply tax cars the same. User + bike is going to weigh 200 lbs, give or take, so about 15¢/lb. At that same rate, an 800-ton vehicle would cost $240,000 for an annual license.

    I don’t literally propose we charge THAT dramatically a difference, but there would be a fairness in taxing according to weight or size of vehicle.

    April 26, 2011
  6. And I should add — for commercial purposes, this type of taxation is not intended for behavior change. Obviously stuff needs to get from point A to point B, and people aren’t going to be pulling spent fuel rods on their bike. The point is just that industry pays its fair share.

    For personal vehicles, there are possible behavior changes: a Smartcar would be significantly cheaper to license than a Chevy Tahoe, because it’s significantly cheaper for the state/county/city to have it running on its roads. If you don’t want to change, fine; just pay what you owe.

    April 26, 2011
  7. BrucwWMorlan said:

    Sean, before we all jump on the non-motorized bandwagon, it is useful to remember the primitive state of bicycles in the time of DaVinci (probably a hoax anyway). Iron, low grade hand-forged steel and wood make cumbersome bicycles indeed, and when used on the sorts of roads pre-industrial civilizations could afford (using 1750 as the beginning of the industrial age) they are certainly little more than toys for the very rich. Even the famed Roman road systems seem to have required far more resources than the empire could allocate in a sustainable manner (it is interesting to see revisionist historians now attributing Rome’s fall to an energy crisis).

    The engineers, miners and the like who must labor long and hard to build even the simplest of modern bicycles demand the sorts of peripheral toys (ATVs, NASCAR, American Idol) that require energy and roads more in line with modern western civilization than with modern sustainable third world economies. Indeed, the retrofit of modern high-energy industrial processes to use low-energy methods is the challenge of the day, and we need more bright people taking up the engineering and science to help solve these problems, and fewer of the best and the brightest signing up to become policy wonks and economists (IMNSHO).

    April 26, 2011
  8. The engineers, miners and the like who must labor long and hard to build even the simplest of modern bicycles demand the sorts of peripheral toys (ATVs, NASCAR, American Idol) that require energy and roads more in line with modern western civilization

    Hah, can’t argue with you there, Bruce.

    April 26, 2011
  9. Griff Wigley said:

    Curt, one of the Perkins PDF newsletters refers to a new rig that can handle 400 tons, so maybe that’s the correct number. Or maybe this is a really special job and 800 tons is correct.

    April 26, 2011
  10. john george said:

    I drove out to see the thing, also, as it is behind our church. What an amazing piece of equipment! And I thought some of the farm equipment around here was pretty large.

    April 26, 2011
  11. Griff Wigley said:

    Thx for those links, Curt. Amazing.

    July 3, 2011

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