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Giant LANL rotor will be hauled across state

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The giant rotor that will be transported from Los Alamos to Clovis via highways is mounted on a special ‘two lane’ trailer that evenly distributes the load. The entire transport system weighs more than 700,000 pounds. (Courtesy LANL)

SANTA FE – A 460,000-pound piece of equipment will be transported from Los Alamos National Laboratory to Clovis, passing through the heart of Santa Fe, on its way to a repair site starting Friday morning.

The truck-and-trailer rig being used to carry the massive load – a rotor that is 69 feet long and six feet in diameter – is expected to cause delays for drivers. It can’t use N.M. 599 to go around most of Santa Fe because of construction work on the bypass route, the state Department of Transportation said in a Wednesday announcement.

“The transport will travel between 25 to 40 miles per hour,” according to DOT. “Motorists can expect delays if caught behind the transport and may want to seek an alternate route.”

Department spokeswoman Marisa Maez said the rig is expected to leave Los Alamos between 8:30 and 9 a.m. Friday. “If all goes smoothly, the haul should arrive in Santa Fe around 10 (a.m.) and reach the El Dorado exit by about 12 (noon) or shortly thereafter,” she said in an email.

The transport will go through Pojoaque, come into Santa Fe on U.S. 84-285, take St. Francis south to St. Michael’s and head east on St. Mike’s to Old Santa Fe Trail, the road that will be used to access Interstate 25.

The trip could take as long as three days, passing through Clines Corners, Vaughn, Fort Sumner and Melrose before reaching Clovis. A police escort will alert drivers to slow down.

From Clovis, the rotor will be taken via train to Richmond, Virginia, for repairs. DOT said the rotor is “nonmilitary” and contains no hazardous or radioactive materials. The entire transport system, with two trucks, weighs 700,000 pounds but is not expected to cause damage along the route, Maez said.

LANL spokesman Kevin Roark said the rotor is the same kind of spinning mechanism found at the core of any typical electrical motor, except for its massive size, and is the central portion of the lab’s Motor-Generator. The machine has a power output capacity of 1.4 billion watts, energy storage of 1.2 gigajoules and requires a dedicated 12,000-square-foot building.

The generator delivers very large bursts of electrical energy “in (a) very short time – about one second – to physics and materials science experiments, safely, repeatably, and under control,” Roark said via email.

It was originally built in Switzerland and designed for use by the Tennessee Valley Authority. It was first delivered to Los Alamos in 1989 for use in early fusion energy experiments. After repairs, the rotor will be hauled back to Los Alamos, by similar means, at a date to be determined.

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