The Neutron Scattering Society of America regrets the proposal of the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences, to cease funding of the Lujan Neutron Scattering Center user program at Los Alamos National Laboratory. For the past two decades, the Lujan Center, operated through a partnership between the NNSA and BES, has been an international center of excellence and innovation for basic and applied research in neutron scattering and fundamental nuclear physics. The potential loss of its unique capabilities is of concern for the future health of the neutron scattering community and the leadership in the science of materials in the United States.
The recent BESAC report “From Quanta to the Continuum: Opportunities for Mesoscale Science“, argues strongly for neutron scattering as a key scientific tool, complementary to photons, providing unique capabilities for the study of soft-matter, complex fluids, magnetic materials, disordered and aperiodic structures as well as for studying inelastic processes and dynamics. The 2013 BES Facilities Prioritization Report further notes that leadership in the science of materials is needed to ensure economic competitiveness and enable innovation and that for the U.S. to lead in materials research, it must have world-leading neutron science capabilities. This report also states that ALL present BES neutron scattering facilities are highly oversubscribed and that in terms of total capacity of its neutron instrumentation, the U.S. lags far behind Western Europe. The report concludes that the Lujan Center enables excellent scientific research in a very cost-effective fashion, and that the work performed there cannot easily be transferred to other U.S. facilities because of the lack of capacity at the other facilities, and the specialized sample environments and instruments that exist at the Lujan Center.
For well over a decade, the Lujan Center has provided scientific users from almost every state in the nation with unique capabilities for scientific research in material science, condensed matter science, biology, nuclear science and technology (for a recent compilation of user data and productivity see http://lansce.lanl.gov/lujan/docs/2013_Lujan_BES_Review.pdf). While the Lujan Center has a distinguished record of innovation and contribution to our nation’s neutron scattering capability it also has a significant record of accomplishment in executing research of importance to US national security as well as a long history of training new users in the United States. Because of the partnership with NNSA, the Lujan center is also the most cost effective facility for general user operations. Given the unique capabilities offered by neutron scattering as a key scientific tool, the shortage of neutron instrumentation in the U.S., the unique capabilities and strengths offered by the Lujan Center for both general user and US national security research, a shutdown of neutron scattering operations at the Lujan Center would have serious consequences and would precipitate a decline in American competitiveness. The Neutron Scattering Society of America therefore urges the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the National Nuclear Security Administration to make every effort to preserve the operation of one of America’s most productive and cost effective scientific facilities that serves a wide community.