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In wake of budget threat, DOE vows to seek funds for Bates

A state-of-the-art detector, the Bates Large Acceptance Spectrometer Toroid (BLAST), late last year. It is being built by an internal collaboration of approximately 50 physicists.
A state-of-the-art detector, the Bates Large Acceptance Spectrometer Toroid (BLAST), late last year. It is being built by an internal collaboration of approximately 50 physicists.
Photo / Donna Coveney

Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson has reassured MIT President Charles Vest that the Department of Energy will ask Congress to maintain funding for MIT's Bates Linear Accelerator in Middleton, despite provisions in President's Clinton's proposed budget to close down its operation as of September 30.

The President's budget for fiscal 2000 showed funding for basic research at Bates into the structure of the atomic nucleus would go from $10.8 million in fiscal 1999 to $2.5 million in fiscal 2000, which begins Oct. 1, 1999.

Martha Krebs, the director of the office of science for the Department of Energy, issued this statement yesterday:

"The administration's fiscal 2000 budget sent to Congress yesterday did not include continued funding for the operation of the Energy Department's Bates Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The department will be developing a budget amendment to support continued operation of the facility and allow work to be completed on a new detector that will provide unique data on the structure of the atomic nucleus.

"I'm very pleased that Secretary Richardson made this important decision to maintain the Department's only university-based small accelerator. The work that can be done at Bates will lead to a better understanding of the fundamental nature of matter and is an important resource to help train the next generation of nuclear physicists and accelerator scientists. We will work with the Congress to find a way to continue this important teaching and learning center," Dr. Krebs said.

President Vest commented, "I spoke personally with Secretary Richardson on Monday. He assured me that the Department would act to restore funding for Bates during the congressional appropriations process. Today, the department publicly announced its intent to develop a budget amendment for this purpose.

"In any event, the President's budget submission is only the first step. In the coming months, MIT will cooperate with the administration to present to Congress a logical and compelling case for the current importance of the Bates Laboratory to the nation's nuclear physics program. It is especially important to complete the BLAST [Bates Large Acceptance Spectrometer Toroid] experiment. We expect that scientists throughout the country who utilize Bates will join us in making this case."

"The country has made a huge investment in Bates for the very best of scientific reasons," Dean of Science Robert J. Birgeneau said. "The facility is operating magnificently, it has outstanding leadership and a superb staff, and it is poised to do pathbreaking fundamental physics with BLAST over the next five years. The United States must not squander this unique scientific opportunity."

Professor Robert Redwine, director of the Laboratory of Nuclear Science, said, "The Bates facility has a distinguished record of first-class research and education of young scientists. With recent major upgrades, Bates remains on the cutting edge of research in nuclear science."

"The focus of nuclear physics research at Bates is three unique detector systems," explained Professor Richard Milner, director of the laboratory. "The SAMPLE detectors study the magnetism of protons; the Out-of-Plane Spectrometer (OOPS) studies the proton's shape; and for the future, BLAST will study the spin of nuclei."


"An understanding of the origins of magnetism is one of the outstanding problems in physical science, of both basic and practical importance," Dr. Milner said. "Microscopically, magnetism is due to the spins of elementary particles like electrons and nuclei. In spite of decades of work and much sophisticated research, the basic physics of magnetism in nuclei is still totally mysterious.

"The Bates Large Acceptance Spectrometer Toroid (BLAST) is a detector which will shed new light on magnetism in nuclei. It is under construction by an international collaboration to exploit the high-intensity, stored, polarized beam in the MIT-Bates South Hall Ring. Nuclear physicists from 12 institutions in four countries are constructing a unique facility to study the spin structure of nuclei using BLAST and state-of-the-art polarized target technology.

"Construction of the magnetic toroid is almost complete and will be installed in the Ring in summer 1999. The complete BLAST spectrometer is scheduled for completion in 2001. A three-year program of first rate physics measurements utilizing BLAST will follow this."

The federal government has invested about $50 million in the past four years into the Department of Energy facility. The accelerator is operated by MIT's Laboratory for Nuclear Science, which claims three Nobel Prizes among its faculty and has trained 120 PhDs at Bates in the past quarter-century. Ten graduate students are currently doing doctorate work in nuclear physics there. The facility employs 85 people.

Last November, the Bates center achieved a major milestone en route to a new frontier in measuring the most basic elements of matter. Using a high-intensity beam of electrons stored in the 600-foot South Hall Ring, physicists created a continuous intense electron beam with a current that is 1,000 times greater than what is normally available. (See article in MIT Tech Talk, Nov. 25, 1998).

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 3, 1999.

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