Gore Backs New Neutron Source

WASHINGTON, D.C.--Vice President Al Gore plans to visit Oak Ridge National Laboratory in his home state of Tennessee on Wednesday to announce the Administration's support for a $1.3 billion science facility that will generate neutrons useful to a host of disciplines. The huge accelerator--which, if built, would be the most powerful in the world--is the largest new science project in the 1999 budget request, slated for release 2 February.

Administration sources say that the White House will request $157 million in 1999 to begin design work on the Spallation Neutron Source, which would be built at Oak Ridge with the help of four other Department of Energy (DOE) laboratories. If Congress approves funding for the project, construction could begin by 2000 and be completed by 2005, DOE officials say.

The proposed facility is welcome news for researchers who use neutrons to probe the structure of materials. A $3 billion reactor project called the Advanced Neutron Source was canceled in 1995 due to rising costs and nuclear proliferation concerns, and the reactor at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York, remains shut due to a tritium leak. "There are still a lot of feelings of depression and anxiety, but things have brightened a bit," says Jack Rush, who manages the materials science and engineering lab at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland.