[ RadSafe ] News: DOE outlines Rare Isotope Accelerator plans

John Jacobus crispy_bird at yahoo.com
Fri Mar 24 13:12:26 CST 2006

>From another e-mail news service.

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science
Policy News
Number 41: March 23, 2006 [Resent due to possible
system problem]

Department of Energy Outlines RIA Plans

Last year, the Senate Energy and Water Development
Appropriations Subcommittee included language in its
FY 2006 report requesting the Department of Energy to
submit a report regarding the Rare Isotope
Accelerator.  House and Senate conferees reiterated
this requirement, stating, "The conferees support the
Rare Isotope Accelerator (RIA) but are concerned that
the Department does not seem to be making tangible
progress toward realization of RIA." DOE had 120 days
to submit a report "to define a specific path forward
on RIA."  The report, less the "Introduction and
Charge" which excerpted the Senate report language
(and which can be read under "Nuclear Physics" at
http://www.aip.org/fyi/2005/098.html )
is below:

"Response to Questions in Senate Report 109-84
Regarding the Rare Isotope Accelerator

[One-page "Introduction and Charge" with the Senate
Energy and Water Development Appropriations
Subcommittee report language was excerpted at this

"This report, prepared by the Office of Science for
Nuclear Physics, is in response to this request.

"Plans Regarding Moving Forward with RIA

"Even with the planned doubling of funding for basic
research in the physical sciences over the next ten
years announced by the President in his State of the
Union address, the Department is compelled to balance
commitments to specific programs in the context of its
broader research portfolio and the Department's and
the Nation's priorities.

"The RIA as originally envisioned would be a facility
with unprecedented capabilities world-wide, but with
an estimated cost of $1.1 billion, it would represent
a major investment by the Federal Government.
Consistent with advisory committee guidance, the
highest priority for Nuclear Physics facilities is the
effective use of its existing world-class facilities
the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider and the Continuous
Electron Beam Accelerator Facility to foster the
discoveries and advancements in scientific
understanding for which they were built. The FY 2007
Budget Request and the subsequent five-year budget
plan fully support this top facility-related priority
as well as the critical need to maintain a strong
ongoing university and the national lab research
program. Given these priorities, the Department has
concluded that it is not prudent to proceed with RIA
at this time. The Department continues to believe that
research in rare isotopes is an important element in
the Nation's portfolio of scientific capabilities. The
Department believes that the United States can
maintain leadership in this area of nuclear physics
via the alternate path described below.

"The Department is exploring the possibility of
starting design and construction of an alternate
exotic beam facility around the end of this decade.
Near-term funding would be provided to develop
research capabilities at both domestic and
international facilities so that the U.S. research
community is fully engaged at the forefront of nuclear
structure and astrophysics studies and prepared to
fully utilize the U.S. exotic beam facility when it
would come into operation. In keeping with this
strategy for an alternative future facility, the FY
2007 Budget supports generic exotic beam research
activities but not RIA-related conceptual design work.

"The FY 2007 OSTP/OMB R&D Budget Priorities Memorandum
stated that 'Within discovery-oriented physical
science investments, priority will be given to those
projects and programs that are demonstrably
well-coordinated with related programs in other
agencies and countries.'  Our near-term plans are
consistent with this guidance, and we will actively
pursue partnerships with other countries and other
agencies, including the National Science Foundation
(NSF), for this alternate exotic beam facility. The
NSF supports the National Superconducting Cyclotron
Laboratory at Michigan State University, which is
considered to be the leading rare isotope facility in
the United States and serving over 600 scientists from
the U.S. and abroad. With expertise in exotic beam
research crossing agency boundaries, it is natural to
ensure that efforts are coordinated across agencies to
support an optimal nuclear physics program for the
Nation. The Department is proposing a path forward
that will address the Nation's needs in this
scientific area while ensuring the overall scientific
productivity of the Office of Science's programs.

"The Department will seek outside expert guidance from
the scientific community and advisory bodies such as
the National Academies and the DOE/NSF Nuclear Science
Advisory Committee (NSAC) in defining this alternate
facility. A scientific assessment of the role and
importance of rare isotope science in a national and
international context is underway at this time by the
National Academies, with a report expected this fall.
The Academy's findings as well as guidance from NSAC
will be important input to the Department's decision
on how to proceed with the implementation of national
capabilities for exotic beam studies.

"Answers to Specific Questions

"Q. The status and progress of the conceptual research
and development supporting the development of RIA over
the past 6 years

"A. Research and development activities directed
towards the RIA were begun in 2000 based on guidance
provided in 1999 by a NSAC study. In August 2003, a
RIA research and development (R&D) workshop was held
at which experts in the field identified areas for
prioritized efforts for R&D required prior to the
construction of RIA. Since then, R&D has been based on
these priorities, which address performance
enhancement and cost and schedule risk. On an annual
basis, the priorities have been revisited and found to
remain appropriate. All R&D activities since FY 2006
have been directed to generic studies related to a
next generation rare isotope beam capability; no
efforts directed towards a project-specific Conceptual
Design Report for RIA have been funded.
Major Areas of R&D:
  The gas cell, where unstable nuclei can be brought
to rest and then rapidly extracted to produce
reaccelerated beams, is an innovative device that
greatly extends the capability to study the most
unstable nuclei. R&D efforts have demonstrated that
ions can be extracted from a gas cell in tens of
milliseconds with nearly 50% efficiency.
  A prototype high performance electron-cyclotron
resonance ion source for the driver accelerator has
been built, and tests have demonstrated extraction of
bismuth ions; testing to meet the specifications for
uranium is ongoing.
  Prototype superconducting accelerator cavities for
the low and medium velocity segments of a heavy-ion
driver linear accelerator have been developed.
  Development of targets that produce radioactive
elements reliably while having the capability to
dissipate high power levels is being pursued. The
so-called 'two stage' target, where a neutron
production stage is separated from the radioactive
element production stage, has been tested.
  The efficient acceleration of heavy ions requires
one or two stages of stripping to increase the ion
charge state. A project is underway to investigate a
concept utilizing flowing liquid lithium films to
withstand the high power beams without failure.
  Laboratory tests using high power electron beams to
simulate uranium beams show that lithium films can
withstand high power beams without degradation.
  Diagnostics concepts for low intensity beams have
been developed and devices built and tested, and are
already in use in several accelerator facilities.
  Fragment separators collect the shower of nuclear
species produced in a fragmentation reaction and
separate the species of interest from the rest.
Several designs, each adapted for a different use in
an exotic beam facility, are being investigated.
Studies are underway to investigate the suitability of
superconducting materials in the high radiation
environment of these separators.
  Advanced computer software for beam dynamics
calculations has been developed, and is being used to
study beam halo effects, a significant source of
unwanted equipment activation. 

"Q. The priority research areas the Department will
complete prior to site selection for RIA

"A. Given the Department's position on RIA as stated
above, there are no RIA-specific priority research
areas that are currently targeted. In FY 2007 and the
outyears, generic R&D continues for an exotic beam
facility aimed at topics that optimize performance and
reduce cost and schedule risks.

"Q. The process by which the Department selects
recipients for its research and development funding

"A. R&D funds are awarded on an annual basis according
to merit-based peer review. Each year proposals are
solicited separately from universities and
laboratories. A panel of experts is convened to assess
the scientific and technical merit of the proposals,
the validity and feasibility of their approach, the
competence of the proposer(s), and the appropriateness
of their budget and schedule.

"The criteria for assessing scientific and technical
merit of R&D proposals includes the degree to which
the acquired knowledge could enhance the performance,
reduce the construction and/or operating costs, and
reduce the engineering and scheduling risks associated
with a rare isotope beam facility.

"Q. How the results of current and future research and
development may affect the design of RIA or the path

"A. The results of current and future research and
development will be used to optimize the scientific
and performance capabilities of a rare isotope
facility and to reduce the cost, schedule and risk of
its construction.

"Q. What technical hurdles remain before RIA site
selection can resume?

"A. The Department is not aware of any 'show-stopping'
technical hurdles relevant to site selection for a
future exotic beam facility. R&D, as discussed above,
will continue to be supported to optimize performance
and reduce costs and technical risk. This R&D will
address issues that will need to be resolved before
the final design and start of construction (e.g., to
verify the best method to stop and collect rare
isotopes for reacceleration and that targets can
withstand high intensity beams).

"Q. What funding will be required to clear those
hurdles and what is the expected length of time for
completion of these activities.

"A. Annual funding at roughly the level proposed in
the FY 2007 Budget Request ($4 million) will be
required until final decisions are made on the
technical design and construction begins. Of course,
several National Laboratories may well continue to
augment these efforts by supporting relevant R&D
activities via their indirectly-funded Laboratory
Directed Research and Development (LDRD) programs."

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
The American Institute of Physics
fyi at aip.org    http://www.aip.org/gov
(301) 209-3095

"Those who corrupt the public mind are just as evil as those who steal from the public purse."
Adlai Stevenson

-- John
John Jacobus, MS
Certified Health Physicist
e-mail:  crispy_bird at yahoo.com

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