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Originally appeared in Monday, April 05, 2004 Oak Ridger

Our View: Hats off to SNS project; open house

Friday's annual open house at the headquarters of the Spallation Neutron Source certainly emphasized the rapid progress of construction on site during the past year, as has been reiterated by those associated with the $1.4 billion project.

Described as the nation's largest civilian science construction project, the SNS project is 80 percent complete and scheduled to be up and running by 2006.

When completed, about 400 permanent staff will be employed at SNS, which is being constructed on Chestnut Ridge, an 80-acre site near the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Though being built physically in Oak Ridge, the project is actually being designed and constructed by a partnership of six Department of Energy national labs including Argonne, Brookhaven, Jefferson, Lawrence Berkeley, Los Alamos and Oak Ridge.

A new, accelerator-based science facility that will provide neutron beams with up to 10 times more intensity than any other such source in the world, SNS will provide opportunities for up to 2,000 researchers each year from universities, national labs and industry for basic and applied research and technology development in the fields of materials science, magnetic materials, polymers and complex fluids, chemistry and biology.

More simply stated, most people don't even realize how much neutron-scattering research impacts their everyday lives. As mentioned in previous articles, things like aircraft, credit cards, pocket calculators, compact discs, shatter-proof windshields, adjustable seats and satellite weather information for forecasts have all been improved due to neutron-scattering research.

But, neutron research also provides insight into the behavior of materials used in biological systems, pharmaceuticals, high-temperature superconductors, powerful light-weight magnets, aluminum bridge decks and stronger, lighter plastic products.

We're fortunate to have this billion-dollar-plus project going up in Oak Ridge, even as other countries are running a race with the United States to create this sort of technological facility.

Special thanks to Thom Mason for the tour and the insight provided at Friday's open house, which was open to the press and the general public.

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