NICOLAS Cask Transporter Aids Handling of Radioactive Materials

Use of special wheels, steel grades and reinforced heating systems enables NICOLAS's self-propelled cask transporter to safely move nuclear material in temperatures down to -45 C.

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NICOLAS (TII-Group) recently delivered a self-propelled cask transporter for the transportation of spent nuclear fuel casks in vertical position to the industry. Designed to operate in extreme climate conditions, the vehicle supports concentrated loads, moves them safely in vertical position and keeps the mechanical stress on the transported casks extremely low.

The NICOLAS cask transporter offers a capacity of 50 T and has been especially designed to operate at temperatures down to -45 C due to special wheels, steel grades, sensors and reinforced heating systems for cabin, engines and electrical installations. Equipped with four axles, it relies on the proven technology behind the NICOLAS MHD-G2 modular vehicles, thus its frame has been particularly designed to support concentrated loads in two different standard sizes. During operation, the cask transporter reaches a maximum speed of 5 km/h, travels slopes and narrow turns and connects several storage facilities.

“One of the main challenges was keeping the load vertically without deformation of the cask, despite vibrations and unavoidable minimal bending of the supporting frames. Classic fastening methods lock the load with tensioning systems, the NICOLAS cask transporter relies on a pressure system, allowing a precise dosage of the applied forces. Also, we can guarantee that corrosion, cold and additional stress due to decontamination processes won’t harm the cask transporter,” explains Alexis-Pierre Durand, engineer in charge of the project.

During the loading process, the vertical stroke of the vehicle allows lowering the loading frame directly to the ground. An upper platform allows the operator to access the load for fixing and unfixing. The vehicle is hydrostatically driven by a diesel engine. A redundant electric engine (Power Pack) allows downgraded emergency transportation modes in case of engine failure in the main unit, assuring a safe emergency procedure under any circumstances. The NICOLAS cask transporter and all its components like heaters and engines are protected by a remote controlled fire extinguishing system. Strong work lights for all distance ranges and a back-view camera further increase the safety of load and driver. If idle, the cask transporter can be connected to a power line, supplying an independent vehicle heater to guarantee an easy starting procedure and a comfortable working environment for the driver. An electronic logic controller of the vehicle guides the operators while maneuvering the vehicle, minimizing the possibility of human errors.