After three years of testing the Atlas Railcar nuclear waste wagon will be unveiled on 5 June, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) Office of Nuclear Energy. 

The new 12-axle railcar is the centrepoint of the DoE’s new train which will move commercial nuclear waste, including spent fuel rods from nuclear power stations to disposal sites. 

The Office of Nuclear Energy explained the specialist railcar would be able to carry 17 different types of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) containers, known as casks. These range from 82t to 210t casks. 

As many as seven of the new secure railcars can be coupled on one of the nuclear waste trains, with each able to carry 217,000kg. The trains are constituted of two locomotives at the front, a “buffer” railcar separating the locos from the Atlas Railcars, another “buffer” car separating the nuclear waste from the end of the train, and a final Escort Car “to carry security personnel, surveillance, and train monitoring equipment”. 

The design process evaluated the car’s performance with different loads, and the subsequent testing has proven its operational safety to Association of American Railroads (AAR) standards. 

The DoE is still waiting on conditional approval from the AAR Equipment Engineering Committee before it can begin operating the new train, but it will go ahead with the launch and use the new railcar for training. 

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The Atlas Railcar will be officially unveiled at the BNSF’s Yard in Denver, Colorado during the DoE’s 2024 National Transportation Stakeholders Forum Annual Meeting.