Stephen M. Shapiro
shapiro at bnl.gov
Fri Nov 19 17:35:58 CST 1999
Tuesday was a sad day for us at Brookhaven as well as for the US
and international neutron scattering communities because Secretary
Richardson announced that the HFBR would be permanently shut down (see
press release below). It came as a complete surprise to all of us at BNL.
In fact, most BNL employees first heard the news through the morning news
broadcasts and papers.
Secretary Richardson made his decision just as the draft of the
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was about to be released. He claimed
that it obviates the need for releasing the EIS. This has disturbed
everyone, even our local critics, because the well-defined process set up
by DOE for making the restart or shutdown decision was abrogated. The
Secretary said he made the decision based on economics and that the science
could be done elsewhere. With the loss of the HFBR there are good reasons
to doubt that the short and medium term neutron needs of the scientific
community will be met, even with the planned upgrade of existing
facilities. The community was told that politics did not play a role in
the decision. I, along with many Long Islanders (including the press), am
not persuaded that this was, in fact, the case. I encourage you to make
your displeasure known to the Secretary concerning both the decision-making
process and the future, limited availability of neutrons. I think this is
important in order to prevent future important science policy decisions
from being made in the same manner. His, and other relevant e-mail address
are given below.
This has been a very long and painful three-year period since the
shutdown of the HFBR. You were called upon several times to send letters
to DOE officials and politicians in support of the HFBR and you responded
promptly and with conviction. For this we are deeply grateful and thank
you for your support. I only wish the outcome had been different.
e-mail: The.Secretary at hq.doe.gov
copies to: patricia.dehmer at science.doe.gov
marburger at bnl.gov
shapiro at bnl.gov
November 16, 1999
Richardson to Close Brookhaven Research Reactor
Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson today announced that the High Flux Beam
Reactor (HFBR) at the Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory
on Long Island will be permanently closed. HFBR is a 60-megawatt research
reactor that began operation in 1965 and has provided scientists with
neutron beams for research in materials sciences, chemistry, physics,
structural biology and medicine. The research reactor has remained closed
since December 1996 when it was shut down for normal refueling and its
restart delayed after a small amount of radioactive tritium was discovered
in an aquifer beneath the reactor.
"This was a difficult decision for me and I consulted with scientists, the
community, members of Congress and other elected officials," said Secretary
Richardson. "Extremely valuable research has been done at this reactor in
its 30 years of operation, but it would take years and be costly to
restart. DOE has been actively upgrading the technical capabilities and
user capacities of all its neutron science facilities so that they can meet
the growing demand for this kind of research. While I don't believe the
Brookhaven reactor is a threat to the public or the environment, we need to
focus our limited resources on productive research rather than keeping the
reactor in standby mode for an unknown length of time."
Congress for three years in a row has prohibited the department from
restarting the HFBR and keeping it in standby status costs nearly $23
million a year. Officials estimate that it would take until 2002 at the
earliest to finish the environmental review, restart the reactor and make
it operational for research again. The draft Environmental Impact Statement
(EIS) that has been under review in the department is no longer necessary
because DOE is moving directly to close the reactor.
"Laboratory director John Marburger has agreed to take all necessary steps
to mitigate the job impacts of the reactor's shutdown," Richardson said.
Brookhaven Laboratory researchers who have done research at the HFBR will
continue to be supported and will conduct their research at other
facilities. Until 1996 scientists from more than 70 institutions in
academia and industry have used the HFBR each year for research.
"The Department of Energy is deeply committed to Brookhaven Lab and the
lab has a strong future," Richardson said. "For example, the Relativistic
Heavy Ion Collider that I helped dedicate last month will be a world center
for nuclear physics. Similarly, the new and planned upgrades to the lab's
National Synchrotron Light Source will help that facility remain at the
forefront of science for years to come."
The department is improving all of its facilities that contribute to the
nation's neutron science program as well as building a major new facility.
The Spallation Neutron Source, an accelerator-based neutron source, is
under construction at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National
Laboratory in Tennessee and will be more than 10 times as powerful as the
best spallation neutron source now in existence. SNS will help meet the
nation's need for neutron science capabilities well into the next century.
The department is also upgrading the High Flux Isotope Reactor at its Oak
Ridge National Laboratory. Improvements include larger beam tubes and
shutters, a high-performance hydrogen cold source and new and upgraded
neutron scattering instrumentation. Instruments that use the cold source
will be housed in a newly constructed experimental building that is removed
from the reactor's core, which will reduce the background "noise." The
improvements will be undertaken during an extended planned reactor outage
in Fiscal Year 2000 and will increase the reactor's research capacity from
about 250 to about 700 users.
Upgrades to the LANSCE neutron scattering facility at the department's Los
Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico are in progress. The upgrade will
increase its power to that of ISIS in the United Kingdom, which is
currently the world's most powerful spallation source. The upgrade will
also provide a new suite of state-of-the art instruments for neutron
scattering research at the Manuel Lujan Jr. Scattering Center at LANSCE.
The upgrades will double that center's power and increase user capacity
from about 100 to about 300 researchers.
The department's Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois is improving the
productivity of its Intense Pulse Neutron Source (IPNS) by upgrading the
instruments as well as the target and moderator systems. The IPNS remains
one of the most reliable facilities operated by the department.
The HFBR was shut down for routine maintenance in December 1996. In
January 1997, tritium was discovered in the ground water aquifer underneath
the reactor. The source of the leak was traced to the indoor storage pool
used to hold the reactor's spent fuel rods. The contamination has been
contained to laboratory property and a groundwater extraction system was
installed in 1997 to ensure that the contaminated water does not leave the
laboratory site. The Suffolk County Health Department, U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have stated that
the tritium plume does not pose a health hazard to the public.
The reactor's spent fuel pool has been drained and the reactor's fuel has
been removed as part of placing the reactor in standby mode. The department
now will proceed with activities to prepare the reactor for permanent
- DOE -
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