SNS prepped and ready for research after ‘extremely productive’ maintenance outage

SNS Building MarkerKevin Jones, who oversees operations at the Spallation Neutron Source, said the long summer maintenance outage — from June 28 to Aug. 7 — was “extremely productive.”

The SNS is one of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s most important research facilities, and Jones said the projects made significant improvements to SNS operating systems and research instruments. Results will be seen not only in operating efficiency, but in scientific productivity, he said.

For the last half of 2014 and the early part of 2015 the SNS reduced its beam power to save the wear and tear on the target vessel, a key component that holds the mercury that is zapped many times a second by a proton beam to produce streams of neutrons for research experiments with materials.

Now, however, with a couple of the stainless-steel vessels in reserve — and another one on the way — the SNS is operating at a sustained power level of 1.34 megawatts. That’s close to the highest ever, which means more neutrons and perhaps better experiments.

According to Jones, these projects were accomplished during the lengthy outage at SNS:

— Installed X-ray viewing ports on the Radio-Frequency Quadrupole to facilitate measurement of peak electric fields in this structure to improve our understanding of performance limitations.

— Commissioned a new cooling tower acid neutralization system to reduce SNS water consumption by 15-20 million gallons per year.

— Upgraded many elements of the Low Energy Beam Transport Chopper to improve our capability to accumulate more charge per beam pulse, and hence increase overall beam power.

— Installed a prototype chase insert to demonstrate proof of principle for accelerator modifications needed for the Second Target Station.

— Installed additional detectors for the CORELLI and MaNDi instruments, and upgraded detectors on the SNAP, POWGEN and SEQUOIA instruments to increase their scientific capabilities.

— Installed crystal panels at the BASIS Instrument to increase scientific capabilities.

— Implemented Data Acquisition upgrades on several instruments to enhance data collection and visualization capabilities.

The SNS had problem last year with unexpected failures of the target vessel, but that appears to be stabilizing.

According to Jones, the SNS management decided not to change the target vessel during the summer outage.

” Target 12 remains in service, and had accumulated about 3400 MW-Hrs of exposure before we resumed operations this week,” he said via email. “We plan on changing it during the winter outage that would begin at the end of December.  We still have two spare targets available, with another in the pipeline due for delivery in December.”

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About Frank Munger

Senior Writer Frank Munger covers the Dept. of Energy's Oak Ridge facilities and many related topics — nuclear weapons, nuclear waste and other things nuclear, environmental cleanup and science of all sorts. Atomic City Underground is, first and foremost, a news blog, but there's room for analysis, opinion and random thoughts that have no place else to go.