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An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS: Fiscal Year 1997
process of community involvement and with the Reactor Radiation Division 's responsiveness to issues raised by the group.
The Strategic Plan for the Materials Science and Engineering Laboratory (June 1996) includes the transition of the NIST research reactor from a division of the laboratory to a national Center for Neutron Research. This change has already been accepted by NIST management and occurred officially on May 25, 1997. The subpanel enthusiastically endorses the proposed change. The designation as a Center will give the reactor facility status and exposure more appropriate to its national and international importance. It will also provide the director of the facility with a level of authority more commensurate with his responsibilities.
The present reactor license will expire in 2004. The Reactor Operations Group is preparing a Safety Analysis Report (SAR) and an application for relicensing through 2024. The SAR is currently in draft form and will be reviewed by the staff and the Safety Evaluation Committee over the next year. A factor in timely relicensing is the healthy ongoing dialogue maintained between the NIST Reactor staff and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The Reactor Operations Group is aware of the critical milestones and time constraints, but there is no short planning document that identifies and summarizes the key issues. In view of the NIST reactor's unique role in the nation's neutron science capabilities for the foreseeable future, it is essential that this relicensing take place. The subpanel strongly endorses the need for timely relicensing to ensure continuity of service to users. The physical condition of the reactor and associated plant and facilities should present no serious obstacles.
The reactor upgrade has been completed and was very successful. The newly installed H2 cold neutron source increased the neutron flux by a factor of 6. The reactor has returned to the licensed level of 20 MW and has operated reliably since it was restarted.
The panel recognizes and supports the division's emphasis on planning for the orderly replacement of the three key members of the Reactor Radiation Division leadership over the next decade.
Efforts to hire appropriate staff for Reactor Operations and Engineering are continuing but have not yet been completely successful.
The panel is concerned about the loss of expertise in fundamental condensed matter theory within the division since the last assessment.
The cold neutron instrumentation upgrade is nearing completion. The focus is appropriately shifting to upgrading the thermal neutron facilities in the reactor hall, including the three triple-axis spectrometers.
The new strategy for the NIST crystal and inorganic chemical properties database appears appropriate.