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Report Slams Los Alamos Neutron Center

December 13, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 50

Reliability, management, and funding for the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center were criticized in a new report by the Department of Energy Office of Inspector General. The facility is run by the DOE National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and primarily serves nuclear weapons scientists. However, the facility's beam line also is used by civilian scientists through the Manuel Lujan Jr. Neutron Scattering Center. The IG report says the facility may not be capable of operating in the future: Major components have become obsolete and are old beyond their service lives, and maintenance has been inadequate. Consequently, annual reliability has fallen to 77%, 8% below similar facilities, and it is unclear whether NNSA has completed an analysis needed to keep the facility operating. Three years ago, DOE announced a plan to overcome "dysfunctional governance" at the facility and make it a model for multiuser defense and nondefense operations (C&EN, April 2, 2001, page 39). The concern then, as well as in the latest IG report, was whether the facility is necessary and if it will be needed once the Spallation Neutron Source opens, probably in 2006. The report is available at


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