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New spent nuclear fuel escort railcar heads into final phase of testing

By | January 13, 2022

Car is headed to AAR test track in Colorado

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light blue boxy railcar
light blue boxy railcar
A new high-tech railcar developed by the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Department of Energy is moving from Oregon to the Association of American Railroads Transportation Technology Center test track near Pueblo for multiple-car testing. (Department of Energy)

PUEBLO, Colo. – A new high-tech railcar developed by the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Department of Energy is moving from Oregon to the Association of American Railroads Transportation Technology Center test track near Pueblo for multiple-car testing. The Rail Escort Vehicle is designed to transport security personnel during the shipment of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste and is the last piece needed for a complete railcar system required by DOE to transport spent nuclear fuel to disposal and storage facilities across the country.

While the new car resembles a caboose, it is equipped with security features including cameras and communications equipment to provide enhanced surveillance of shipments.

The project was initiated by the Navy’s Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program to replace its aging fleet of escort vehicles. The Department of Energy and NNPP jointly developed the new design, which meets the Association of American Railroads highest standard for railcars.

“This project is a prime example of the great collaboration between DOE and the Navy and will further serve the nation’s naval nuclear propulsion program, as well as our civilian reactors, which currently supply more than half of our nation’s clean energy,” said Patrick Schwab, Atlas project manager for DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy.

DOE contributed more than $10 million to the design and fabrication of the project. The car was built by Vigor Works LLC in Portland, Ore., where it successfully completed electrical and plumbing systems testing. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Transportation Technology Center already conducted single-car performance testing on an earlier prototype of the vehicle.

When the vehicle arrives at the test track it will be connected to Atlas, a 12-axle car being developed by DOE, and buffer railcars to form a complete train. The entire train will then undergo two years of multiple-car testing, which will allow DOE to begin operations with the cars as early as 2024.

The first Navy Rail Escort Vehicle will be delivered early this year. Four additional Navy vehicles will be delivered by the end of 2023.

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