Facilities and Personnel
The NCNR operates 24 beam instruments that cover a broad range of energies, resolutions, and capabilities. The NCNR expansion project will increase the cold neutron user facilities by 30 percent to help meet the needs of the growing neutron scattering community. The expansion will add a new cold source, guide, and guide hall and will also allow optimization of the existing instruments across the aggregate flight paths. This optimization includes separation of high magnetic field instruments to minimize cross talk with magnetically sensitive instruments and experiments. To operate the five new funded instruments will require hiring additional staff and a significant increase in operating funds. Continuation of strong staff support to users will be important for maintaining the quality of the science program and output of the NCNR. Partnerships with industry and the formation of consortia will allow the number of instruments to be increased through leveraging (there is currently funding for 5 but space for 10) and should be aggressively pursued. NCNR management is well aware of the impact of the SNS on the neutron program and is choosing instrumentation in the expansion project that will complement the new source. Nevertheless it is important that each instrument is developed with a clear understanding of its existing user community at present and its expected growth. Sustained and robust interaction with the user community is essential for maximizing the number of instruments and their suitability for meeting the needs of various constituents. Current staff levels are unlikely to be sufficient to meet the needs of the user program and also support the design and construction of the new suite of instruments. It is therefore essential that NCNR staff be expanded to design, build, and support these new instruments and maintain the high level of service to the user community. Moreover, in addition to recruiting design and construction engineers for the new beam lines and instruments, NCNR must aggressively recruit instrument scientists to interface with the user community as well as optimize the science capabilities of the new tools.
There has long been an issue of the sufficiency of the numbers of scientists and engineers who are trained and have expertise in neutron scattering science and instrumentation. A contributing factor is that most neutron sources are not at universities but at national laboratories. In order to address this issue, NCNR has been actively pursuing an outreach program that is designed to provide education in the neutron scattering arena. This includes the yearly summer school at the Center for High Resolution Neutron Scattering (CHRNS) for graduate students and postdocs; there is also a summer undergraduate research fellowship administered by NIST.
The new expansion of the experimental facilities, the increased security systems, and important ongoing maintenance are all competing for the extant in-house pool of skilled engineers. While funding for increasing the engineering staff does not appear to be a serious difficulty, competing successfully against the many other industry, government, and university groups now aggressively hiring engineers with nuclear experience will be increasingly difficult. At the present time several additional engineers are needed to meet the projected workload.
The reactor is well maintained and skillfully operated and was available for research during 2006 on 266 of a possible 267 days (99 percent availability). Budget
allocations for routine operations have been adequate, with a 3-4 percent increase in 2006 over 2005. Reserve stockpiles of heavy water and reactor fuel of the type for which it was designed are sufficient for a complete change-out of the heavy water inventory, and enough fresh fuel has been manufactured for several years of operations. Planning for coolant systems modifications and rerouting necessitated by the expansion of the guide hall/experimental area is well in hand. It is based on allowing as much time as possible for making final decisions on the specifications of the new instruments to be located there.