DOE gets go-ahead to build spent fuel/high-level waste railcars

February 9, 2021, 3:04PMRadwaste Solutions

Graphical rendering of Fortis railcar design with spent nuclear fuel cask. Image: DOE

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) recently gave the Department of Energy approval to begin building and testing Fortis, a high-tech railcar designed specifically to transport the nation’s spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. Fortis is one of two specialized railcars under development by the DOE that could be operational within the next five years.

Fortis is an eight-axle, flat-deck railcar that will be able to transport large containers of spent fuel and HLW. It is equipped with high-tech sensors and monitoring systems that report 11 different performance features back to the operators in real time. The railcar design was completed earlier this year, with technical support from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

According to the DOE, AAR signed off on the design in January, allowing the department to begin fabricating and testing the prototype in compliance with the rail industry’s highest design standard for railcars transporting spent fuel and HLW.

Flexible designs: The DOE is also developing the 12-axle Atlas railcar to transport larger containers of high-level radioactive material. The DOE said that the two railcars will give the department more flexibility when transporting spent fuel and HLW to disposal and storage facilities. Atlas is further along in the development process and is going through single-car prototype testing in Pueblo, Colo.

The DOE is currently seeking feedback from industry on contract options for the next phases of Fortis development through a request for information/sources sought notice. Railcar fabrication is expected to take about 18 months to complete once a contract is in place and will be followed by testing.

The Fortis and Atlas railcars are on track to be approved for operation by AAR by the mid-2020s.


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