CONSTRUCTION of a 513 km railway is the preferred option for serving the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada. Expected to open in 2010, it will be served by 175 trains a year for 24 years.

The US Department of Energy has appointed Bechtel SAIC as prime contractor for the scheme. After studying five transport corridors last year, the Department selected the Caliente route and instructed Bechtel in April to draw up an Environmental Impact Statement for the line by the end of 2005. Last month Bechtel commissioned Quantm of Australia to provide optimisation software, staff training and project support.

Diverging from UP’s Los Angeles - Salt Lake City line at Caliente, the line would run west for 320 km through Warm Springs, skirting the northern and western edges of the Nevada Test Site before turning south to reach Yucca Mountain.