Reports to Congress

Comparative Safety of the Transport of High-Level Radioactive Materials on Dedicated, Key and Regular Trains

  • 01
  • Nov
  • 2004
SUBJECT: Hazardous Materials
KEYWORDS: Nuclear Fuel, Radiation Exposure, Rail Safety
ABSTRACT: This study compares the risks in transporting spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste under three rail shipment alternatives: 1) regular train service, operating without restrictions with the exception of current hazardous materials regulations; 2) dedicated train service, operating with consist and operational restrictions; and 3) key train service, similar to regular train service with the additional speed limitation of 50 mph. Dedicated train shipments have a lower overall radioactivity exposure risk during incident-free transport than shipments by regular or key trains, the advantage is primarily derived from the differences in the duration and frequency of yard visits, which account for a significant portion of total exposure for impacted populations. Crew population doses, however, are higher for dedicated trains due to crews working closer to the cask. Estimated population group exposures are low and do not include any additional protective measures, which may be implemented to mitigate exposure. The accident analysis estimated the difference in accident probability between dedicated, regular and key trains, and identified two significant risks potentially impacting the cask - high-speed collisions and derailments, and long duration, high-temperature HAZMAT-involved fires. The analysis shows that speed restrictions reduce collision probability at high speeds, and result in an overall reduction in the derailment rate. Dedicated trains reduce the likelihood of high-temperature fires due to lessened exposure to other hazardous material. The risk for loss of shielding accidents is shown to be lower for the shorter dedicated trains due to the decreased number of potentially derailed cars.
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