A giant rotor, capable of generating massive bursts of electricity for experiments at Los Alamos National Laboratory, is scheduled to lumber through the center of Santa Fe on Friday morning in a truck-and-trailer convoy — snarling traffic as it slowly makes the first leg of a journey to Virginia.
Two trucks will begin pulling — and pushing — the 460,000-pound copper and steel motor-generator rotor on a trailer at speeds between 25 and 40 mph from Los Alamos at around 9 a.m. Friday, on a road trip that could last up to three days, the New Mexico Department of Transportation said.
The behemoth device, which measures 69 feet long and 6 feet wide, eventually willbe put on a train in Clovis for transport to a General Electric repair facility in Richmond, Va., according to the lab.
If everything goes as planned, it’s expected to reach Santa Fe late Friday morning. But officials warned it will be a slow — and probably inconvenient — time for local motorists along the route.
“The anticipation is that it may get there by 10 a.m., and they hope to have it through the city by 12 [noon],” said Department of Transportation spokeswoman Marisa Maez.
The 20-foot-wide trailer is expected to roll south along U.S. 84/285 to Santa Fe and continue down St. Francis Drive to St. Michael’s Drive, then travel east on Old Pecos Trail to Old Las Vegas Highway before turning onto U.S. 285 at Eldorado on the way to Interstate 40.
The state Department of Transportation, which suggested motorists try to avoid the route, said this path through Santa Fe was chosen because of ongoing construction on N.M. 599, which skirts the city’s west side.
According to the lab, the rotor will be mounted onto a many-wheeled “special heavy-haul, dual-lane trailer that will be moved with both push and pull trucks, ensuring the necessary power and control” and is “designed and operated to distribute the weight of the load evenly and comply with all requirements for road and bridge loading.” The entire transport system will weigh more than 700,000 pounds.
Lab officials emphasized that the equipment is nonmilitary and contains no hazardous or radioactive materials.
LANL’s description of the Swiss-made motor-generator, of which the rotor is the central part, reads like a scientist’s dream.
Labeled by the lab as “a unique national asset and a major piece of infrastructure,” it has a power output capacity of 1.4 billion watts and its own 12,000-square-foot building. The generator supports the lab’s research by delivering very large bursts of electrical energy — hundreds of megajoules per second — to physics and materials science experiments. It was first delivered to the lab in 1989 for use in early fusion energy experiments.
The rail journey from Clovis to Virginia is expected to take two to three weeks. After the repairs are completed, the rotor will be transported back to Los Alamos in a similar way, though the dates and route details are currently unknown.