Neutron drought warning

30 November 1999

The supply of neutrons will be reduced to less than half in the next twenty years, a recent report says, with important implications for basic and applied research.

Neutrons are used in the study of materials properties, in the fields of semiconductors, superconductors and biology. Increasingly they also have medical uses, for example in the treatment of cancers (see article, p30). There are two sources of neutrons – reactors, and accelerators.

The report, produced by the Megascience Forum, found that while the number of accelerator-based sources would decrease slightly in future, more than three-quarters of the reactor-based sources would shut down in the next twenty years.

The Forum made recommendations in its report on constructing new sources, aiming to balance potential new sources with demand, both regionally and across the scientific disciplines that require neutron sources.

Following the Forum’s report, the US government decided to move forward on building an additional accelerator-based neutron source in Tennessee.

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