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Future Trains - Future Energy

Meeting: Tonight - Monday, April 15th, 7pm (central),


Faster Headlines

Wheels on Steel:

California High Speed Rail
The Economic Times
The Cool Down

Down the Tube:

Alarabiya News
The Guardian
Up in The Air (or Space):

Business Traveler


Japan Prime Minister visit with Biden

On April 10th, President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida met in Washington DC. There was a multitude of agenda items for each countries ministers to discuss, from cooperation in space defense, to sustainability, to AI. However, once the items making the news was the discussion on Texas Central High-Speed rail. According to the White House fact sheets:

Investing in U.S. Infrastructure: The U.S. Department of Transportation and Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism welcomed Amtrak’s leadership of the Texas Central High Speed Rail Project, utilizing Shinkansen technologies, which was recently selected for the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Corridor Identification and Development grant program. The successful completion of development efforts and other requirements would position the project for potential future funding and financing opportunities.

It appears our friend, Andy Byford, was meeting with Japan to talk about the Shinkansen technology. Back in October, the group met with Mr Byford to discuss high-speed rail as well as the internship program. It will be interesting for this year's interns if this topic comes up this summer.

Of course, the challenge with Texas Central is politics. Yes, there are several billion dollars still available from the Inflation Reduction Act of 2021. Based upon this meeting, the White House is signaling that Texas is in the running for the next round of funding. However, this will all depend on the election in November. If Republicans take the White House and the Senate, we are likely to see the return of trying to kill high speed rail. However, if Biden remains in the White House...our guess is that will see funding for Texas High Speed Rail. So this is going to be interesting to watch.


How the Small Modular Nuclear Reactor Will Change Transportation.

We cannot keep relying on our existing transportation networks to meet tomorrow’s demands. 

The electric car was supposed to be the sustainability solution for motorists, but sales of EVs are down (let alone how much pollution comes from battery production).  Then there are sustainable aviation fuels for airlines, but at most we are looking at 2% of the airline's fuel demand being provided by renewable sources (in 2022 about 22.4 million gallons of SAF fuel were produced…but the airlines used 1.5 billion gallons) … even then, airplanes still emit CO2 emissions directly into the atmosphere.   Of course, there are trains, but intercity and commuter passenger rail is operated by diesel-electric motors (excluding a few fully electric commuter lines). 

However, there is a solution on the horizon, and it is carbon-free.  It is called a Small Modular Reactor, which is half the size of a football field.  Additionally, there are microreactors which are the size of a semi-truck.  Both of these types of nuclear reactors are completely carbon-free, safe, and self-regulating with no cooling towers needed.  Even in the highly unlikely event of a leak, containment will be measured in meters.  Comparing traditional nuclear reactors, to these new factory-made reactors is like comparing the Ocean liner, the Queen Mary, to a modern-day A321 NEO. 

Once these reactors are certified (which is a whole issue in itself), we are essentially looking at a huge shift to carbon-free power generation.    The question is how transportation would benefit.

According to the EPA" in 2022,Transportation was the sector with the greatest greenhouse gas emissions, with over 6,343 Million Metric Tons of CO₂ equivalent released. Greenhouse gas emissions from transportation primarily come from burning fossil fuel for cars, trucks, ships, trains, and planes. Over 94% of the fuel used for transportation is petroleum-based, which includes primarily gasoline and diesel and results in direct emissions."

The question is how we provide a transportation solution that people want to move towards and can utilize this evolution in carbon-free energy.  Well, it won’t be electric cars; and electric airplanes are still in the first stages of development, Hyperloops are a dream… but trains are the answer.   Specifically high-speed trains.

As seen across Asia and Europe the trains are reliable, affordable, and fast. If new trains built in the United States are faster than driving, people will change modes to trains.  Then it is simply hooking up the Small Module Reactor to an electrified train system…and here we have a fully sustainable, zero-emissions transportation system (as long as you use green concrete for construction…which is a different issue).


The Faster Badger is produced by students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to help break through the misconceptions of high-speed rail and high-speed transportation. This blog is for educational purposes only and all opinions presented are of the students.

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