SNS outage in 2017 will be extra long

In order to introduce heavy water into the target cooling system, workers at the Spallation Neutron Source will load the cooling loops next year during the planned replacement of the “inner reflector plug.” That’s a big job, especially because the plug is in an extremely radioactive area near the mercury target, and so the work will have to done remotely.snsnight-thumb-400x272-19021.jpg

This will be the first time that the plug has been replaced since SNS began operations in 2006. In the future, it’ll probably be replaced about every five years, according to Kevin Jones, the SNS operations manager.

Because of the difficulty of the endeavor, Oak Ridge National Laboratory workers are already practicing the removal of the hot plug and installing a new one, Jones said.

The new inner reflector plug is scheduled to arrive in September or October. The SNS typically has two big maintenance outage, one around Christmas and the other in the summer.

The summer one will take even longer than usual because of the plug replacement, with Jones estimating the work will take about 3 1/2 months.

“It’s a very big job,” he said.

The outage will probably begin in late March, he said, noting that the Christmas outage may be shortened to lessen the overall impact on research operations.

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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.