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The proposed $310-million project to double the energy of the electron beam at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility achieved a critical milestone on Nov. 9 when the Department of Energy approved the project's performance baseline.

The approval authorizes the final design phase and is required prior to requesting a project's construction funding in a federal budget.

"The approval marks a significant achievement for Jefferson Lab," said Dr. Jehanne Simon-Gillo, the acting associate director for the Office of Science for Nuclear Physics. "The 12 GeV Upgrade Project will allow nuclear scientists to delve deeply into the heart of the nucleon, and will permit Jefferson Lab to remain a unique international facility for decades."

The doubling of Jefferson Lab's energy, from a 6 billion-electron volts (GeV) to a 12 GeV accelerator, building of a fourth experimental hall and making improvements to the existing experimental halls, will provide scientists a one-of-a-kind tool for seeing more clearly into the nucleus of the atom and its protons and neutrons. Jefferson Lab is already the most precise facility of its kind in the world for exploring the subatomic particles known as quarks and gluons that make up protons and neutrons.

"This milestone further solidifies Jefferson Lab's standing as a preeminent nuclear physics research facility. Most importantly, our nation has moved a step closer to providing scientists worldwide with a tool that will enable us to expand our knowledge of the universe," said Dr. Christoph Leemann, the Jefferson Lab director.

To explore protons and neutrons, Jefferson Lab's accelerator propels a beam of electrons at nearly the speed of light around a massive underground "racetrack" that is 7/8 mile around. When the beam smashes into experimental targets, huge detectors collect the fragments. By studying the speed, direction and energy of the scattered fragments, scientists can learn more about protons and neutrons.

Old Dominion University has 15 faculty members in nuclear physics and accelerator physics who are affiliated with Jefferson Lab.
The laboratory, which operates on a 206-acre campus, employs more than 700 people and is a center for nuclear physics research and education. It is one of 17 national laboratories overseen by the Department of Energy, and is managed and operated by Jefferson Science Associates (JSA), a company formed by the Southeastern Universities Research Association and Computer Sciences Corp.

This article was posted on: November 26, 2007

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