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Name: Kimbree
Status: student
Age: 18
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 1999 


Question:
I am a senior in high school and am debating about partical accelerators in my CWP class. I was wondering if you could help me with this. I am taking the stance that particle accelerators are valuable and worth the amount of money that they cost. If you have any info on the information that accelerators provide us with, their costs, and their impact on the enviornment. Thank you so much for your time and consideration.


Replies:
I hope my colleagues here at Argonne National Lab will also follow up on this question, but here is my opinion: we must have these accelerators to do the basic science that is required to understand our world and better our society. To name a just a couple of examples, particle accelerators are needed to provide the production of neutron and x-rays that can be used to study the molecular and atomic structure of materials. In order to better understand and produce materials (such as superconductors, polymers, etc.), we need to understand how they are assembled and interact on an atomic scale. This can only be done with x-rays and neutrons. Two facilities here at ANL that use accelerators are the Advanced Photon Source (APS) and the Intense Pulsed Neutron Source (IPNS). Hundreds of studies are done year round at these facilities to understand just what I have mentioned. Go to ANL home page to get a jumping off point to see both of these facilities (http://www.anl.gov/). Fermi National Accelerator Lab out in Batavia, Illinois (http://www.fnal.gov/) is an accelerator that uses particle to investigate the make up of the atom. Although this is mainly scientific (not commercial), it is still need to help prove (or disprove) theories of physics and the galaxy.

As for cost, they are expensive. That is why you don't see every university or company have one of these things. That is why it is up to our government to pool its resources to have these instruments made and open to the scientific community. We have not only universities come here to IPNS, but we have companies as well that use the neutrons to better understand their manufacturing processes. We have had companies come here at work and go back to their manufacturing with a better, cheaper, and more efficient way of manufacturing their product. That can only help our society and environment.

Yes, there are also some environmental problems with running these instruments. They do produce radioactive conditions, but if handled properly, this does not impact you or me. We continually have safety reviews of procedures and experiments such that little or no radiation is allowed to cause harm to people or equipment. There is always going to be some equipment that is radioactive (our neutron generating target for example), but it is contained properly so that people are not exposed to excessive radiation. You would be amazed at the paperwork and requirements we have in order to work here where there is a potential radiation hazard. Our standards for exposure are less than what most people get standing in there basement where there is radon gas radiation.

I hope this helps your argument. I urge you to look at the web pages for APS and IPNS to get a good idea of what we do here. Good luck with your debate.

Dr. C. Murphy



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