When complete in 2006, the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, will provide next-generation neutron scattering capability for U.S. researchers.

But last summer, relying heavily on the huge role played by Laborers in its construction, the SNS celebrated what today’s workers can already do and did:  two million hours of construction labor without a single lost work day.

According to Local 818 Assistant Business Manager Rodney Morgan, “We’ve got a highly skilled workforce out there and contractors that have well-established safety records. It’s been smooth sailing since day one.”

The project began on a Tennessee mountainside in 1999. Initially, it involved building roads, sewers, waterlines and several above ground structures. The core of the project, however, is a number of underground facilities including the 330-meter long Linac accelerator tunnel, the high energy beam transport tunnel and the accumulator ring

“We have 130-140 Laborers on site everyday,” says Morgan. “Altogether, we’ve poured maybe 400 to 500,000 yards of concrete. Some days, we poured 2000 yards a day.”

Knight/Jacobs serves as the general contractor and has let about 15 subcontracts. Blaine Construction of Knoxville has poured more concrete than any other contractor and helped set the high safety standard that guided the effort from the beginning. Last year, the company was recognized by the Associated General Contractors of America as the safest contractor in the nation in its particular building division (100,000 to 500,000 annual labor hours).

“Blaine deserves a lot of credit,” says Morgan. “Almost every day, we’ve had morning meetings to evaluate weather conditions and the particulars of each pour. We all know what’s going on and what the safety issues are. That makes a difference.”

Today, the project is about 60 percent complete. The total cost will reach $1.4 billion. Since the project’s beginning, Laborers have been the majority of the workforce, but that will begin to change as the work moves inside.

The purpose of the SNS is to generate intense pulsed neutron beams for scientific research and industrial development. Using these beams, scientists can study the subatomic properties of various materials and design better materials for a wide range of high-tech applications.

[Steve Clark]