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On the Continued Operation of the BEVALAC Facility (1992) On the Continued Operation of the BEVALAC Facility On August 20, 1992, Committee on Space Biology and Medicine Chair Fred W. Turek and Space Studies Board Chair Louis J. Lanzerotti sent the following letter to the Honorable James D. Watkins, U.S. Secretary of Energy, and NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin. On May 14, 1992, the Committee on Space Biology and Medicine (CSBM) of the Space Studies Board (SSB) was briefed by the acting director of NASA's Life Sciences Division, Mr. Joseph K. Alexander, concerning various issues and activities in which the division is engaged. Among the issues raised was the impending decommissioning of the BEVALAC at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory as outlined in correspondence from Dr. David Hendrie, director of the Department of Energy's Division of Nuclear Physics. Subsequently, the CSBM discussed this issue with the Board at its meeting in Huntsville, Alabama, in June. The Board and the CSBM are in agreement with a host of advisory committees' recommendations concerning the importance of gaining a better understanding of the biological effects of high Z element (HZE high-energy) ATTACHMENT 1 particles.1 Critical to planning for extended human sojourns in deep space is ATTACHMENT 2 quantitative knowledge about the dose rates and types of radiation that will be ATTACHMENT 3 encountered and the related biological effects. The SSB and CSBM are concerned about the closing of the BEVALAC given that there is no alternative facility at which to continue the radiobiological research conducted as part of this country's goal of expanding the human presence in space. This facility is the only accelerator in the United States capable of producing the spectrum of energies required for research concerning the physical and biological effects of the heavy ions that will be encountered during deep-space missions. Providing adequate shielding against radiation and taking other measures to protect astronauts during deep-space travel are directly dependent on information derived from research concerning the biological effects of protons and HZE particles. It is our understanding that even if funding for an alternative facility were provided today, there would be at least a five-year hiatus before suitable beams could become available. An interruption of the radiobiological research currently under way at the BEVALAC would have a number of deleterious effects on this well-established program that is a critical component of the national goal of file:///C|/SSB_old_web/bevalac92ltr.htm (1 of 4) [6/18/2004 10:57:51 AM]
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On the Continued Operation of the BEVALAC Facility (1992) human space exploration. Research teams that have been assembled to conduct this work would disperse and transfer to other areas of research. The flow of valuable long-term data derived from the BEVALAC studies would cease. Thus it would be necessary to start all over with new research animals, when another accelerator became available, in order to obtain data from repeated, increasingly longer periods of exposure—a condition absolutely crucial to this type of research. Finally, losing this capability would seriously damage the research program of the recently established NASA Specialized Center for Research and Training (NSCORT) in Space Radiation Health at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and contribute to the loss of expertise in basic radiobiological research—an outcome that would be contrary to the conclusion reached in NASA's Space Radiation Health Program Plan.2 There is an acute need for additional well-trained and well- qualified researchers in space radiation physics and biology. A continuous supply of trained space researchers needs to be developed and adequate numbers of trained personnel need to be available to enable program expansion. (p. 30) Various heavy-ion facilities exist worldwide that could, theoretically, support the type of space-related research under way at Berkeley. However, the SSB and CSBM have no evidence that any of these facilities could be made available to support NASA's HZE radiation research program. The BNL Booster at Brookhaven National Laboratory has limited capability, and no beam time will be available until a new irradiation facility is built. The Darmstadt accelerator has provisions for cell research but not for animal research, and beam time at the facility is currently oversubscribed by a factor of two. The JINR at Dubna has obsolete equipment, low beam intensity, and beam contamination—significant limiting factors. The Synchrophasotron at Saclay has no provisions for conducting animal or cell research, and at least a year would be required to prepare the facility to provide iron beams. Beams generated at the facility at Geneva are beyond the energy range required by NASA researchers. Finally, the accelerator at Chiba is not yet in operation and will not produce iron ion particles. Understanding that the NASA-sponsored research at the BEVALAC may be relatively minor in the context of the Department of Energy's (DOE) overall mission, the SSB and CSBM believe that the decision to decommission this facility should be considered in the context of the importance of the BEVALAC to the U.S. space program—one in which DOE plays an increasing role.3 Until a suitable alternative can be provided that supports research related to long-term plans for human space exploration, the SSB and CSBM urge that the BEVALAC remain available to NASA researchers. Given the importance of the radiobiological research conducted at the BEVALAC and its fundamental role in realizing the national goal of human space exploration, the SSB and CSBM strongly recommend that DOE and NASA agree on a means for continuing without interruption the capability now provided by the BEVALAC. 1Attachments citing 14 supporting statements drawn from internal NASA and file:///C|/SSB_old_web/bevalac92ltr.htm (2 of 4) [6/18/2004 10:57:51 AM]
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On the Continued Operation of the BEVALAC Facility (1992) advisory documents and NRC reports accompanied the original correspondence; they are appended to the letter. 2Space Radiation Health Program Plan, Life Support Branch, Life Sciences Division, NASA, Washington, D.C., November 1991. 3National Space Policy Directive for Space Exploration Initiative Strategy, Section III, paragraphs c and d, March 13, 1992. ATTACHMENT 1—Letter from DOE ATTACHMENT 2—Excerpts and Recommendations Concerning Biological Effects of Radiation Exposure ATTACHMENT 3—Selected Reports Concerning Radiation Research and Humans in Space Last update 8/22/00 at 12:26 pm Site managed by Anne Simmons, Space Studies Board file:///C|/SSB_old_web/bevalac92ltr.htm (3 of 4) [6/18/2004 10:57:51 AM]