January 2000

Groundbreaking marks ‘sweet moment’ for SNS

The Spallation Neutron Source’s construction phase is officially under way. A host of officials and dignitaries, including Vice President Al Gore, Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist and Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, along with several hundred invited staff members, trekked to the chilly wooded site atop Chestnut Ridge on December 15 to break ground for the project.

The $1.36 billion neutron science facility, “the world’s most powerful neutron source,” as SNS Executive Director David Moncton described it, is scheduled for completion in 2005. Between now and then the Oak Ridge Reservation tract will the the site of a mammoth construction project, the first U.S. science facility of its scale to be constructed in decades.

Also attending and speaking were Sen. Bill Frist, Rep. Zach Wamp and Rep. Bart Gordon of the state’s Congressional delegation, and Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce Chairman Warren Gooch. Other guests were Dr. Martha Krebs, who made her final visit to ORNL as director of the Office of Science; Rep. Jimmy Duncan; and Associate Director Bill Appleton, who steered the project in its initial stages. Directors or their representatives from the five participating national labs—ORNL, Argonne, Berkeley, Brookhaven and Los Alamos—were also on hand and recognized by host and ORNL Director Al Trivelpiece.

Vice President Al Gore came to Oak Ridge on December 15 to help break ground for the Spallion Neutron Source.
A special guest was Clifford Shull, who won the Nobel prize for his pioneering work in neutron analysis with Ernest Wollan. Those initial discoveries at ORNL’s Graphite Reactor paved the way for neutron science’s revelations of the secrets of molecular structure. Several of the speakers noted Shull and Wollan’s contribution. The Vice President noted that few knew in those days what neutron science could offer the world, and few will probably be able to forecast what the SNS will make possible in the coming century.

“The true beauty of the SNS is that no one can really know what this tool will be capable of discovering; discoveries nobody can predict,” Gore said. He noted that he had come to ORNL previously to announce administration support for the project.

Vice President Al Gore and outgoing Office of Science Director Dr. Martha Krebs posed with directors of the five national labs participating in the SNS. From left: Charles Shank of Lawrence Berkeley; Krebs; John Browne of Los Alamos; Gore; Yoon Chang, Argonne's interim director; Dennis McWhan, who represented Brookhaven's John Marburger; and ORNL's Al Trivelpiece.
“Nearly two years ago I was proud to stand here and announce a proposal for a first-year payment to build the most advanced spallation neutron source in the world; to open the floodgates of brand new research and innovation. Today we’re breaking ground on that pledge. We’re putting America on the path of reclaiming our leadership in the neutron scattering technology that we invented here in the United States of America.”

Several of the speakers noted that neutron science, in which the United States has lost its lead because of the lack of facilities, often leads to new products that mean jobs and economic wealth. And Moncton noted that it has been at least 30 years since the United States has built a science facility of this scope, “a desperately long time” in terms of scientific endeavor.

“Today’s groundbreaking for the Spallation Neutron Source marks the end of this difficult era and the beginning of a renaissance in neutron science,” Moncton said. “It’s a very sweet moment for all the SNS project staff here and for the collaborating laboratories.”—B.C.