Answers To Questions On Government-Supported Medium Energy Particle Accelerators

PSAD-75-7: Published: Jun 2, 1975. Publicly Released: Jun 2, 1975.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on government-supported medium energy particle accelerators, focusing on the funding, staffing, and research of four laboratories.

GAO noted that: (1) at the request of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), a committee was established in early 1974 to review the U.S. medium energy science program; (2) the objectives of the committee were to examine the U.S. medium energy science program as supported by the federal agencies and to provide recommendations for program priorities based on different budgetary assumptions for fiscal years (FY) 1975 through 1979; (3) the committee was concerned with the continued usefulness of accelerator facilities--their operating cost, machine characteristics, level and type of experimental programs--and their competitiveness with newer machines; (4) the committee expressed concern about the ultimate characteristics and performance of the new machines and about the times at which they will become fully operational; (5) the director of the Space Radiation Effects Laboratory (SREL) told GAO that there is neither facility-managed research nor research personnel at SREL; (6) based on information furnished by Nevis Laboratory personnel, GAO estimated the NSF has provided Nevis about $8.4 million for operations and research; (7) although Columbia has received NSF grants specifically for research and operations at Nevis, neither Columbia nor Nevis maintain records showing the allocation of these funds nor identify expenditures as either for research or operations; (8) GAO could not obtain comparable information from each facility on the staff employed for operations; (9) each facility maintained its records in a different manner and for different fiscal periods, consequently, the bases vary for the data obtained; (10) during FY 1974 the Los Alamos Meson Physics Facility did not maintain information on actual hour of beam time available for research; (11) it is developing and installing a computerized management system that will, for example, show the number of hours of scheduled and unscheduled down time, hours of research time available, and hours devoted to accelerator tune-up and development; (12) the Nevis synchrocyclotron has not provided any beam time for research since it was shut down for modernization in 1970; (13) the deputy director at Nevis said there may be beam time for research at the end of FY 1975; and (14) accelerator experts who visited Nevis in March 1974 at the request of NSF, indicated mid-1976 as a realistic time for performing a full complement of experiments at Nevis.

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