As the regulatory authority for transportation of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) in the United States, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) requires that SNF transportation packages be designed to endure a fully engulfing fire with an average temperature of 800 °C (1,475 °F) for 30 minutes, as prescribed in Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 71. The work described in this paper was performed to support NRC in determining the types of accident parameters that could produce a severe fire with the potential to fully engulf a SNF transportation package. This paper describes the process that was used to characterize the important features of rail accidents that would potentially lead to a spent nuclear fuel transport package being involved in a severe fire. Historical rail accidents involving hazardous material and long duration fires in the United States have been analyzed using data from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). Parameters that were evaluated from this data include, but were not limited to, class of track where the accident occurred, class of hazardous material that was being transported, and number of railcars involved in the fire. The data analysis revealed that in the past 34 years of rail transport, roughly 1,800 accidents have led to the release of hazardous materials resulting in a frequency of roughly 1 accident per 10 million freight train miles. In the last 12 years, there have only been 20 accidents involving multiple car hazardous material releases that led to a fire. This results in an accident rate of 0.003 accidents per million freight train miles that involved multiple car releases and a fire. In all the accidents analyzed, only one involved a railcar carrying Class 7 (i.e., radioactive) hazardous material (HAZMAT).

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