Truck hauling new, empty nuclear storage cask crashes in Andover Recovery closes Route 11 on Friday and Saturday

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The overturned truck sits as crews of recovery workers arrive. All photos courtesy of Reed Truck Services

A truck carrying a new, empty storage cask for nuclear fuel rods bound for Vermont Yankee in Vernon crashed just before 10 a.m. on Friday in Andover, leading to a two-day recovery effort.

According to Vermont State Police, the east-bound truck rolled over on Route 11 near Middletown Road, closing the road for several hours on Friday and Saturday, with workers returning to finish the recovery on Saturday. The driver was not injured in the crash and there were no fluid leaks, State Police said.

Workers examine the wreck

According to Scott Reed of Reed Truck Services, which took part in the recovery of the truck and its cargo, it appeared that the driver had slowed the vehicle down for the road construction area where cones made the lane too narrow for the truck. As the driver moved over in his lane, his wheels ran onto the loamy disturbed earth on the shoulder and began to tip, Reed said.

“The load was top-heavy and it went over,” said Reed.

Several Reed wreckers prepare to pull the rig upright on to bags that cushion the impact

Unlike other State Police press releases, this one did not name the driver or give his city and state of residence and particulars about the truck. But photos taken on the scene show an 12-axle tractor-trailer combo pulled by a Miller Transfer tractor.

Miller Transfer headquartered in Rootstown, Ohio, specializes in “heavy haul” trucking.  Calls to Miller Transfer on Sunday morning were not answered. Representatives of the company were on hand at the scene and a new tractor-trailer was brought overnight from Ohio to remove the cask.

The huge crane being assembled

Reed said the cargo was a new, empty 125,000-pound nuclear storage cask. The total weight of the rig and cargo was approximately 210,000 pounds — or 105 tons.

On Saturday morning, Central Mass Crane Service brought its largest model — a 450-ton crane that needed seven tractor-trailers of equipment to assemble — through Chester on the way to the wreck. Assembling the crane took two and a half hours while engineers from Vermont Yankee were on hand to consult on the lifting.

Workers rig the cask for lifting surrounded by the wreckage of the blue metal box that had contained it.

“We were there about eight hours on Friday recovering the tractor trailer and then we returned on Saturday for another 14 hours,” said Reed.

“Everything went very smoothly,” said Reed who added that representatives of VTrans and Agency of Transportation were also on hand throughout. “There were a lot of moving parts but everyone knew what they were supposed to do.”

In addition to Reed and Central Mass Crane,  Jamie Gregory Excavation, Renaud Brothers and Cappello Trucking worked on recovering the truck and cask and Green Mountain Power moved overhead lines.

The cask is loaded onto a new ‘heavy haul’ tractor trailer on Saturday

This story will be updated when more information is available on Monday.

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  1. Jim Goodfellow says:

    Thank goodness it wasn’t an apocalyptic event. But, why would the State require a 105 ton vehicle to use Route 11? And, exactly when that section is under construction? That alone makes the whole story worthy of much follow-up.

  2. Peter Bradford says:

    The cask must have been headed to the plant site to store the spent fuel. There is no place to take it (or any of the rest of the spent fuel in the U.S.), so the full cask wasn’t destined for the roadways anytime soon.

    As to containment, the fuel at Vermont Yankee is no longer in the containment, but the plant’s containment was the same type as the destroyed Fukushima units. It didn’t take an apocalypse to release the radioactivity. Fortunately, most of it blew out to sea, though the rest contaminated a considerable amount of land.

  3. Hi Phil,
    Generally the trucking company’s insurance covers the costs.

  4. Phil Perlah says:

    Good thing nobody was injured. But, is the trucking company going to reimburse towns/state for cost of response?

  5. Paul Stumpf says:

    Glad that thing wasn’t FILLED with spent nuclear fuel rods! Watch out for the fully loaded return route.

  6. Hi Chris,
    The company is headquartered in Ohio but has terminals all over the US.
    The routes for superloads can’t go on the interstates so they have to
    use roads like 11. We are asking for the permit to see the route and
    we expect to have an update on the story in the next day or two.

  7. Chris Williams says:

    Ohio to Vernon via Andover does not make sense to me. GPS gone bad?

  8. Ryan Bassett says:

    Ann and Tom, When hauling oversize/overweight loads you are required to receive an oversize/weight permit from the state you are traveling in. The state puts the route they want you to take on the permit, several states will not allow you to deviate from your route plan no matter what. If the issue was cones narrowing the lanes i would imagine that thus was not a road under construction but merely road work being done and that happens. Ann as far as the spent fuel cask being loaded with nuclear fuel, that is what they are for. They have different ways to transport spent fuel vs. New fuel rods. In either case the containment is designed to withstand more damage than could be done short of an apocalypse of biblical proportions and it would probably hold even then.

  9. Erik Tremblay says:

    On all oversize permits the state provides the routes, so this one is on the government.

  10. Ann Darling says:

    Why was truck of this size and weight on a road under construction?! Imagine a truck with a cask filled with highly radioactive [not-]spent fuel tipping over like that. What would happen? Would emergency services know it was coming through town? Would they know what to do? Bad things happen all the time, but when they’re radioactive, it’s toxic to life for hundreds of thousands of years. Don’t play around here, folks.

  11. Tom Knockenhauer says:

    Here we go again. Who plots out their course with out preparation?
    Let’s keep going as fast as we can. It’s only us that deals with the consequences.