SANTA FE – No, it wasn’t the traffic apocalypse many people had feared.
The transport of a giant rotor from Los Alamos National Laboratory went smoothly, causing only minor traffic delays as it passed through Santa Fe on Friday morning.
New Mexico State Police officers, who were escorting the 460,000-pound, 69 foot-long, six feet in diameter piece of equipment as it was being hauled to Clovis on its way to a repair site, reported no issues.
Including the two semi trucks that both pulled and pushed the trailer carrying the rotor, the transport system weighed 700,000 pounds and took up two traffic lanes. A long line of moving traffic did back up behind the big load, which appeared to be going about 25 mph.
“I think this beast is worth taking a look at,” said Clark Zrakobi, who lives near The Lodge at Santa Fe, which offered a good vantage point. “It must have been interesting taking it out of the building in Los Alamos and loading it on that truck. And now we get to watch it come through.”
The rotor, originally built in Switzerland and designed for use by the Tennessee Valley Authority, was first delivered to Los Alamos in 1989.
From Clovis, it will travel to Richmond, Va., by train. After repairs, it will be hauled back by similar means to Los Alamos, where it is part of a machine that produces blasts of electricity for experiments.
Zrakobi said that when he told his wife about the rotor, she said, “Well, why don’t they just bring the Swiss engineers to Los Alamos?”
“That’s probably a really good question for the folks from G.E,” said LANL spokesman Kevin Roark.
He said engineers at General Electric would perform the work. A G.E. spokesman did not return a call from the Journal seeking an answer.
Zrakobi wasn’t the only lookie-loo near The Lodge. Sherain Lopez and a few others showed up, too.
“I live close by and I knew the rotor would be coming through Santa Fe and I wanted to see it,” Lopez said.
Lopez, who works for a contractor that’s doing some of the nuclear waste cleanup at LANL, was tracking the transport on her cellphone using Google maps. She could tell from the traffic patterns that the rig was moving past Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino, then the Santa Fe Opera, then Tesuque Pueblo. She could see the traffic slow down as it climbed a hill. A few minutes later the flashing lights of the NMSP escort could be seen on the horizon.
She took a video of it as it passed by and then posted it on the Santa Fe Bulletin Board, which drew some reaction. “(M)ust be dangerous. look at all the fuzz,” said one, referring to the State Police escort. Authorities have said the big rotor is non-military and non-radioactive.
There were also a few tongue-in-cheek posts.
“Looked more like a missile head to me. World war 3 is coming people really soon,” someone said.
“Yep, looks just like an innocent intercontinental ballistic multi stage ‘rotor’ with independently targeting ‘rotor’ heads, coming from a ‘rotor’ lab that built the very first functional ‘rotor’ in history, launching the world straight in to ‘rotor’ age. Just another ‘rotor’ people, nothing to see here, move along,” said another.
State Police said about 3 p.m. Friday that the transport was ahead of schedule. It was supposed to reach Clovis by 6 p.m. The train trip to Virginia is expected to take about two days.