Saturday, October 1, 2011

Fermilab Closes Tevatron

Fermilab is one of twenty-one national laboratories funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Yesterday Fermilab announced that it was closing its Tevatron accelerator. Tevatron is the second largest hadron collider; the largest is CERN’s LHC. Tevatron has been around for 18 years, Fermilab for 44. The word hadron designates protons and neutrons, thus composite particles made of quarks; they are atomic nuclei.

I got to wondering about the reasons for this closure. In one word, budget. Fermilab anticipates that operation of the Tevatron would require $100 million for the next three years, thus roughly $33 million yearly. In light of looming budget cuts, DOE shook its head at funding this amount. Therefore Tevatron will close its doors.

In FY 2009 Fermilab had a budget of $330 million. In FY 2010 the lab operated under a continuing resolution. I could only find a graphic that shows its FY 2011 budget—and it was above that for 2009, but not precisely determinable. In the high-energy physics department, as it were, the Tevatron represents DOE’s contribution to basic research. That’s what’s usually sacrificed.

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