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Those who operate the military power plants know the consequences of a bad decision, having grown up next to the Hanford Nuclear reservation, and knowing the people who worked there, complacency, greed and laziness lead to a lack of concern.

I can't tell you how many times I heard the stories of how the hangover was so bad they didn't remember what they did during that day at work, and that was from plant operation people.  The construction workers who built and maintained the equipment were often worse.

If we could get rid of the waste, fraud and abuse of government run industries, and make the people involved work under rules and held accountable like the military are, we would have many more efficiently and safely run Nuclear plants, balanced budgets and energy for all.

As to the weapons and material movements by the services, as a designated Nuclear Courier Officer, I can vouch for the tenacity and preparation that happens anytime material or waste is moved from its storage or use point, is dedicated and ready to kick *** if needed. Your neck hairs tend to tingle during the entire movement, until the material is safely delivered, signed for and the cold beer goes down.

"Odd that the Navy can operate nuclear power but we can't seem to get it right in civilian life."

The Navy's reactors are built to withstand combat stress events so the level of engineering for possible failure modes is an order of magnitude higher than civilian reactors.  Different reactor design and scale of power output.  The economics of recouping the capital costs of generating power don't come into play.  Plus, there's no feasible evacuation route if you're on a sub.

Odd that the Navy can operate nuclear power but we can't seem to get it right in civilian life.

I served in two nuclear powered ships.  The Navy constantly trains nuclear plant operators and tests their skills several times per year.  Emergency drills are constant.  Everything in a Navy nuclear plant is maintained at the highest level and is constantly monitored.  The slightest flaw in a piece of equipment is immediately corrected.  

Nuclear Navy friends of mine who joined civilian nuclear power plant programs after leaving the Navy  were shocked at how lax the civilian companies were about both training and maintenance.  The civilians ran their plants to make a profit at least cost instead of operating them to maximize safety.  One former Navy nuclear engineer told me that the civilian companies think they can run a nuclear plant like it is a coal fired plant.  

I retired from the Navy over 30 years ago.  I am confident that the Navy plants are still run with the same care today as they were in the past.  Admiral Rickover's policies for training, quality construction, and maintenance are just as relevant today as in the past.  

I don't know of the status of today's civilian nuclear plants.  NH Joe

Although the caboose is the highlight, the article itself is a great read covering a lot of the military's use of railroads to transport nuclear material, along with photos of the assorted freight cars used in that effort.

I recommend The War Zone blog in general. They cover in depth modern military tech and developments around the world. They must have a lot of good sources across the planet.

@Big Jim posted:

Let me tell you, you do not want to mess around with the guys that ride those cabs! They are dedicated service men and take their job very seriously.

Indeed. Same thing for the USAF and the DoD civilians (most of whom are retired special operations servicemen/women) who move things like rocket motors, fuel rods and re-entry vehicles from ICMBs or warheads for cruise missiles.

The rules of engagement for items like this are quite simple for those trusted with their safekeeping:

Kill whoever gets between you and the weapons/rods, and we'll figure the rest out later after you've secured them.

Seriously, you'll be ventilated faster than trying to rob a Vegas casino vault.

That hack's contents are of course classified to some degree, but they'd carry an arsenal of weapons (pistols, rifles, light and heavy machine guns, grenades and probably hand-held rocket launchers), thermal and night vision gear for everyone, full sets of NBC suits and masks for all, decontamination equipment, communications (encrypted mostly), power generation, showers and toilets, and backup for everything. I bet if the caboose got derailed somewhere, the crew might even have the stuff to get themselves out of that, as well. For sure they'd have enough stuff to live just fine until someone shows up.

On road convoys, nukes have plenty of supporting vehicles, but of course on the high iron that is often not an option. If you ever see a train with this and chopper flying overhead, don't get anywhere near the thing.

I saw a rocket motor train heading to Bremerton/Bangor WA a few years ago and I stood on a berm looking down on it with a camera. I got a good photo of a set of hands inside a caboose window, with a screen hiding the person, taking a photo of me with a cell phone!

Actually that is the fourth generation car.  Earlier versions came in white for the white trains that transported SLBM warheads and blue that accompanied other sensitive nuclear components such as reactor cores and tactical weapons.  All personnel accompanying the shipments were highly trained civilian AEC/DOE(NNSA) employees.  Deadly serious operators, to say the least.

Only 10,000 pounds for the load, (people, food, water and weapons plus ammo). 5 to 10 people, food and water for 7days and ammo to "Hold down the Fort" for a few hours till the Calvary shows up.  One of these cabooses cost the taxpayers millions, most likely more the cost of a new GE or EMD engine or two. 

That is not a disrespectful question. If anybody ever attacked that train, they would not be polite and knock on the door. I would think that the guys that designed that caboose took that into account. The easiest way to attack that train would be to mine the rails and separate out the caboose, then try to get into the car with the nuclear bombs. The designers of this car have to consider all sorts of scenarios. The more far fetched the attack, the harder to defend against.

Just to clarify, nuclear weapons are not transported by rail and haven't been since the mid-1980's.  That courier car accompanies naval reactor- related shipments dealing with classified components or strategic quantities of special nuclear material.  Cars carrying the aforementioned cargoes are armored and incorporate significant independent internal defensive/render safe technologies.

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