News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Shh! 400-Foot-Long Trailer Carrying Radioactive Material Is On Secret Mission

A screen image from a Mack Trucks video about one of the earlier hauls.
A screen image from a Mack Trucks video about one of the earlier hauls.

How do you hide a 400-foot-long, 192-wheel trailer as it's slowly being hauled on a three-week-long secret mission over highways in Southern California, Nevada and Utah?

Well, you can't completely. So you just do most of the driving at night — with police clearing the way. And you don't disclose the exact route.

The reason for the sheer size and the sort-of secrecy: the cargo being hauled, as CBS News reports, is a "797,000-pound piece of 'slightly radioactive' steel from the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station near San Diego." It's being taken to a dump site in Clive, Utah, Huff Post Los Angeles says.

But how do you get something that big around bends and curves?

Similar trips have now been made twice before from California to Utah. According to a story posted last year by, the trailer has 48 independent axles and can make 90-degree turns. Justin Brevik, equipment services manager for Perkins Specialized Transportation Contracting the company that designed and owns the trailer, told that one tractor trailer truck will pull the load while another five trucks push.

As for the radioactivity, "the exposure that a person could receive standing five-to-10 feet away from the transports for an hour would be equivalent to a dental x-ray," Scott Andresen, a spokesperson for Southern California Consolidated Edison, told KCBS.

Mack Trucks has posted video of how this kind of hauling is done.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.