APS News

SNS Critical to US Science Health States APS Council

The APS Council unanimously endorsed a statement urging Congress to provide the necessary funding for timely completion of the national Spallation Neutron Source (SNS). Councillors from all sectors of the APS agreed to its scientific necessity and "urgent national need" to meet the growing needs in the US research community for more powerful neutron sources that are competitive with those in Europe and Japan.

Neutron scattering is a powerful and unique tool for elucidating the fundamental structure of both physical and biological matter. It is routinely used to unlock the secrets of superconductors, magnetic materials, advanced polymers, and other materials of crucial interest to industry. It is estimated that the SNS will attract 1000 to 2000 scientists and engineers each year from universities, industries, government laboratories, and other nations.

The SNS is being built at Oak Ridge National Laboratory by a consortium of national laboratories including: Argonne, Berkeley, Brookhaven, and Los Alamos. The total cost of the SNS was originally set at $1.3 billion with a year 2005 completion date. The State of Tennessee has pledged $8 million to the project. When completed, the SNS will provide the US with a world-class neutron facility capability delivering high-powered (1-MW), short-pulsed (< 1?s) neutron bursts. A sketch of the facility may be viewed at www.ornl.gov/sns/figure_1.cfm.

House Science Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI), who conducted a well-publicized oversight visit to Oak Ridge last March, praised the project's unquestionable scientific merit and recommended full funding for R&D. But Sensenbrenner also expressed concern about project management as well as cost and schedule estimates and recommended no allocation of funds for construction in FY2000.

A new project director and tighter management procedures has helped allay many concerns. A total allocation of $117.9 million for the SNS was allocated for FY2000 which includes only $100 million of the original $196.1 million construction request. APS Director of Public Affairs Michael Lubell warns that "the project remains at risk and is greatly in need of support from the scientific community."

"The timely completion of the Spallation Neutron Source is an urgent national need. American scientists who study the structure of both physical and biological matter must have access to modern neutron facilities. Otherwise, our nation will be at a severe disadvantage in advancing new science and technology. The Council of the American Physical Society urges Congress to continue to provide the necessary funding for completion of the project in a timely manner."