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Fabrication underway for two high-tech rail cars, Department of Energy says

The eight-axle, flat-deck Fortis rail cars will be equipped with high-tech sensors and monitoring systems.
Photo – U.S. Department of Energy


The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is posting progress in its efforts to develop two rail cars designed to transport spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. 

The fabrication process is underway for the Fortis rail-car project, which involves the creation of two high-tech rail cars that can be operational before the end of the decade, DOE officials said in a press release. The eight-axle, flat-deck cars will be equipped with high-tech sensors and monitoring systems.

In 2021, the Association of American Railroads approved the car's’ design, which enabled the DOE to award contracts to start building a car prototype. Kasgro Rail recently started fabricating deck components for the Fortis prototype at its facility in New Castle, Pennsylvania. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is providing technical and design support for the project.

The prototype eventually will undergo extensive single- and multiple-car train testing at the Federal Railroad Administration’s Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo, Colorado.

"The Fortis rail car's move from design into fabrication and eventual testing demonstrates [our] commitment to safe and secure spent nuclear fuel transportation,” said Erica Bickford, the DOE’s federal manager for the Fortis rail-car project. “This is a necessary component to operationalize [our] integrated waste management system for storage and disposal of spent nuclear fuel." 

The DOE also has developed a 12-axle rail car called Atlas, which wrapped up final testing last year. The two Fortis cars will provide more flexibility when the department transports payloads of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste to future federal interim storage facilities and disposal sites, DOE officials said.

The Fortis design incorporates the same cargo attachment system as the Atlas car and will have the same integrated security and safety monitoring system.  The Fortis car will be shorter and used to ship smaller and lighter packages, or to load casks of spent nuclear fuel at nuclear power plants that might be space-constrained. 

On average, the DOE expects to ship about five casks of spent nuclear fuel on a train at a time, with each rail car carrying one cask.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/19/2024