Constraint-Based Routing Models for the Transport of Radioactive Materials
by Peterson Steve
The Department of Energy (DOE) has a historic programmatic interest in the safe and secure routing, tracking, and transportation risk analysis of radiological materials in the United States. In order to address these program goals, DOE has funded the development of several tools and related systems designed to provide insight to planners and other professionals handling radioactive materials shipments. These systems include the WebTRAGIS (Transportation Routing Analysis Geographic Information System) platform. WebTRAGIS is a browser-based routing application developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) focused primarily on the safe transport of spent nuclear fuel from US nuclear reactors via railway, highway, or waterway. It is also used for the transport planning of low-level radiological waste to depositories such as the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) facility. One particular feature of WebTRAGIS is its coupling with high-resolution population data from ORNL’s LandScan project. This allows users to obtain highly accurate population count and density information for use in route planning and risk analysis. To perform the routing and risk analysis WebTRAGIS incorporates a basic routing model methodology, with the additional application of various constraints designed to mimic US Department of Transportation (DOT), DOE, and Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulations. Aside from the routing models available in WebTRAGIS, the system relies on detailed or specialized modal networks for the route solutions. These include a highly detailed network model of the US railroad system, the inland and coastal waterways, and a specialized highway network that focuses on the US interstate system and the designated hazardous materials and Highway Route Controlled Quantity (HRCQ) -designated roadways. The route constraints in WebTRAGIS rely upon a series of attributes assigned to the various components of the different modal networks. Routes are determined via a constrained shortest-path Dijkstra algorithm that has an assigned impedance factor. The route constraints modify the various impedance weights to bias or prefer particular network characteristics as desired by the user. Both the basic route model and the constrained impedance function calculations are determined by a series of network characteristics and shipment types. The study examines solutions under various constraints modeled by WebTRAGIS including possible routes from select shut-down reactor sites in the US to specific locations in the US. For purposes of illustration, the designated destinations are Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. To the degree that routes express sameness or variety under constraints serves to illustrate either a) the determinism of particular transport modes by either configuration or regulatory compliance, and/or b) the variety of constrained routes that are regulation compliant but may not be operationally feasible.