Mysterious Capsules Shipped Through Tri-Cities at Dawn – What’s Inside?
If you happen to be consistently up just before dawn and near the Columbia River in the Tri-Cities, odds are good that you could spot a barge pushing a large circular capsule up the river. I’ve seen them many times since moving to the TRI. Always at sunrise and on weekends, never during the week or the day.
What is inside these capsules and where are they headed?
What’s inside? Well, the most common items inside these capsules are retired reactor compartments from nuclear-powered submarines or other naval ships. According to Columbiainsight.org, the Navy has sent over 130 reactor compartments to Hanford (as of 2019).
Since the 1970s, the U.S. Navy has had a program in place to dispose of decommissioned nuclear-powered ships. Essentially, the subs and ships are safely dismantled and the reactor compartments are shipped for land disposal at the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site. The first reactor compartment was shipped by barge from the Naval Shipyard in Puget Sound to Hanford in 1986.
Two ocean tugboats are used for the first part of the journey. One for actual pushing and another for backup and security. After the ocean tugs navigate across the bar and mouth of the Columbia River, two river tugboats take over for the rest of the journey upriver, ending at the Hanford Site.
The reactor compartments are then off-loaded and later buried. The material will remain dangerously radioactive for hundreds of years. Read more from the U.S. Navy here.