SLAC looks to revamp infrastructure

Jan. 24, 2011, 2:01 a.m.

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory will undergo millions of dollars in renovations to its machinery in the next few years, replacing most of the facility’s infrastructure and aiming to extend its life another five decades.

SLAC looks to revamp infrastructure
Bobczynski (Courtesy of Brad Plummer)

SLAC hired Norm Bobczynski in August as the head of its operations and maintenance unit to oversee the forthcoming facility upgrades.

In the past, maintenance strategies have been mainly reactive, but according to Bobczynski, SLAC has had to deal with the issues that are inherent to a lab built 50 years ago and infrastructure that “is nearing the end of its useful life.”

Underground utilities, including low-conductivity water tanks and electrical systems, have fallen into disrepair over the past few months and will be among the first problems to be tackled during the upgrade.

The age of SLAC’s machinery has led to a few rare emergencies. Within the last few months, water lines deteriorated by corrosion have failed as a result of changes in temperature and pressure. SLAC’s emergency response team has handled problems quickly in the past, but the increasing frequency of these problems prompted Bobczynski and the maintenance unit to focus on a proactive approach in the facility’s overhaul plan to prevent such emergencies from happening at all.

“In total, replacements will cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars over several years, and are expected to extend the life of SLAC for at least another 50 years,” Bobczynski said.

At this point in the upgrade, SLAC is taking a “long-term strategic approach” to extend the life of the hardware in use while not disrupting ongoing scientific experiments.

“Eventually all SLAC hardware and infrastructure will need to be replaced, but we will focus our attention on a prioritized list based on condition and age,” Bobczynski said. For example, the lab plans to prevent failures like breaks in underground piping by replacing the current pipes with state-of-the art materials that will provide the equipment with more longevity.

“All equipment has a different useful life expectancy, so failure frequency always tends to increase as time goes on,” Bobczynski said.

Stanford hosts and operates SLAC for the U.S. Department of Energy. The refurbishment budget will be largely covered by funds from the Department of Energy.

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