Questions and Answers

Future accelerators, experiments and projects

Q: What will happen at Fermilab after the Tevatron shuts down?

A: The closure of the 26-year-old Tevatron was anticipated long ago by Fermilab, and plans were put in place to ensure Fermilab's future as a world leader for particle physics research. Today, the same accelerators that feed the Tevatron with protons and antiprotons also power the most intense high-energy beam of neutrinos in the world, used by scientists to explore the physics of these particles. A 15,000-ton detector under construction in Minnesota will use an even more powerful neutrino beam from Fermilab's accelerator complex to pin down the particle nature of neutrinos. Fermilab scientists are leaders in the field of particle astrophysics, applying the techniques of particle physics to the study of the cosmos in the hopes of solving the puzzles of dark matter and dark energy. Fermilab is the host laboratory for more than 700. U.S. physicists and graduate students participating in the CMS experiment at CERN's Large Hadron Collider. In addition to the many experimental projects and programs currently operating or under construction, Fermilab scientists, engineers and technicians carry out research and development on the accelerators, detectors and computing techniques of the future.

Top of page

Q: Will Fermilab have a successor to the Tevatron?

A: Research and development for several types of high-energy particle colliders is going on today at Fermilab and at laboratories and universities around the world. Over the next few years, results from CERN's Large Hadron Collider will point the way to which type of accelerator the particle physics community should build next. Fermilab hopes to host one of those future machines. But high-energy colliders at the Energy Frontier are expensive, and are only one tool used by particle physicists to study the fundamental nature of the universe. Equally important are projects and programs at the other frontiers of particle physics. At the Intensity Frontier, Fermilab plans to develop the most powerful set of facilities in the world for the exploration of neutrinos and rare processes. The proposed Project X accelerator at Fermilab would create the dominant global facility for this program of discovery.

Top of page

Q: What is Project X?

A: Project X, a proposed half-mile-long Fermilab accelerator, would be the most intense and flexible proton source in the world. Project X is central to Fermilab's strategy for leadership in particle physics research. Incorporating existing modern Fermilab accelerators, its proton source would deliver the world's most intense beam of neutrinos at both high and low energies for tomorrow's neutrino experiments, such as the Long-Baseline Neutrino Experiment in South Dakota. Simultaneously, Project X would power a unique facility for rare-decay discoveries. Project X would maintain the vitality of the domestic U.S. research program and create research opportunities for more than 1,000 users from around the world.

Top of page

Q: What is the status of Project X?

A: Fermilab expects to get mission need approval from the Department of Energy in the spring of 2011. Construction of Project X could begin in 2015, with operation scheduled to start in 2020.

Top of page

Q: What are LBNE and DUSEL?

A: LBNE, the Long-Baseline Neutrino Experiment, would send a high-intensity neutrino beam from Fermilab more than 1,000 kilometers straight through the Earth to particle detectors underground at the Homestake Mine in South Dakota. Detecting neutrino interactions after this long journey would allow physicists to measure the rate at which neutrinos oscillate, changing from one kind into another. These measurements would allow scientists to learn more about the neutrino's role in the evolution of the universe, and may one day explain why the universe is made out of matter and not an equal mixture of matter and antimatter.

DUSEL, the proposed Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory in South Dakota, would be the world's deepest underground laboratory. DUSEL's distance from Fermilab is ideal for the study of neutrino oscillations. DUSEL’s depth and unique design will shield detectors against cosmic particles coming from space. When the detectors are free from background interference, they can be much more sensitive to the detection of dark matter particles, and other processes that have not yet been observed, such as proton decay.

Top of page

Q: What is the status of LBNE and DUSEL?

A: The Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment has received mission need approval, or CD-0, the first step in the Department of Energy's five-step process towards completion of a project. R&D for LBNE is now in full swing.

Recently the National Science Foundation has decided to discontinue its involvement in DUSEL after many years of development and support. The reason given is that the project is very large and primarily supports particle physics, which is a very small part of the NSF research portfolio. NSF perceives DOE as the natural entity to develop DUSEL. DOE’s Office of Science is studying options for the development of DUSEL, and will fund the current operations to preserve the large investment made so far in the Homestake site until a future path is chosen. If DUSEL does not go forward, there are other viable alternatives to carry out our LBNE project.

While NSF will not support the DUSEL infrastructure, it will support detector collaborations in the traditional way that NSF has collaborated in the past with DOE.

Top of page

Workforce and scientific community

Q: As the laboratory transitions to the post-Tevatron era, how will resource distribution be determined? Is there a plan to allocate more resources to areas where growth is needed?

A: Fermilab has commissioned a task force to determine what work the laboratory can continue to support based on scientific priorities and potential budget scenarios. Sector leaders will take feedback from the task force and determine how to staff their organizations with employees who have skills that match the laboratory’s evolving mission. There will likely be opportunities for employees to expand or change their roles.

Top of page

Q: Is there likely to be another Voluntary Separation Offer? The last one did not meet the goal of 50 and was even further from the maximum allowed 90 individuals. If there is a VSO, will there be a different severance schedule?

A: There may be another voluntary separation program as a response to the budget situation. Criteria for who would be offered the program would likely be similar to voluntary programs in the past. The severance schedule would not be altered as severance amounts are specifically set in our contract with DOE.

Top of page

Q: How and by whom will involuntary separation decisions be made if required?

A: Sector leaders will use information provided by a task force convened to determine laboratory configuration in order to determine how to best staff their organizations to match the laboratory’s evolving mission. Sector management will match employees' job skills to the mission need.

Top of page

Q: Seniority was a factor in the acceptance of VSO applications. Is seniority like to be a factor should involuntary separations be required?

A: Seniority would be applied as before in a voluntary separation program when more employees volunteer than we can accept in a given category. If there is an involuntary phase, seniority will not be a criterion. The criteria are based on skills and matching those skill sets to the program of the laboratory.

Top of page

Q: Has an across the board pay reduction been considered as an alternative to a reduction in force?

A: Many alternative actions have been considered as a response to the budget situation. However, the laboratory also needs to restructure skills in response to the evolving mission.

Top of page

Q: Once the Tevatron shuts down, what will happen to the people who work on the accelerator or the CDF and DZero experiments? Will there be layoffs or furloughs?

A: Many of the employees who work on the Tevatron or related projects also work on other experiments or in other areas, and their tasks will change after the Tevatron stops operating. As the laboratory transitions from Tevatron operations to Tevatron decommissioning and to future projects, we will need to match our workforce to the tasks ahead, and the level of people to the level of funding we receive from the federal government. We will know later this year what the actions of Congress will be, and thus what funding we will receive both for the rest of the current fiscal year that started in October 2010, and for the next fiscal year that will start in October 2011.

Top of page

Q: Why is Fermilab still hiring new employees?

A: Today, while the Tevatron is still running, we must fill positions necessary for the continuing operation and success of the laboratory. We try to fill open positions, including in new projects, with our own staff to the maximum possible extent. If we fail at this, we then hire new staff as sparingly as possible to maintain our progress and commitments to DOE. Moving forward, we will need to match our workforce to the projects and programs to come, which will require adjustments to the composition of the staff. In some cases, if we don't already have the critical skills needed within the laboratory, we will need to fill those positions from outside.

Top of page

Q: Will Fermilab continue to attract graduate students and postdocs?

A: Yes. Fermilab will continue to be a world leader in particle physics and accelerator research and will attract students and postdocs who want to answer challenging questions about the fundamental physics of the universe using facilities and experiments at the Energy, Intensity and Cosmic Frontiers.

Top of page

Q: What will happen to the 1,000 collaborators on the CDF and DZero experiments? Where will they go to do research?

A: Many of CDF and DZero's collaborating scientists will continue analyzing Tevatron data for years following this year's shutdown of the collider. Others who wish to continue working at the Energy Frontier of particle physics may transition to experiments at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Still others will choose to pursue research at the Intensity or Cosmic Frontiers using facilities at Fermilab or elsewhere around the world.

Top of page

Future of the Tevatron complex

Q: What will happen to the Tevatron accelerator, and the CDF and DZero detectors?

A: The period following the final shutdown of any particle accelerator is called decommissioning. In the first phase of the decommissioning of the Tevatron and the CDF and DZero experiments, we plan to open parts of the Tevatron, and the CDF and DZero experiments, to public display and tours. Not all Tevatron and detector components will remain in place. Some components may be re-used in future experiments at Fermilab and around the world, while others will be removed from the tunnel or detector cavern and safely stored.

Top of page

Q: I've heard that the Tevatron and the CDF and DZero detectors will be open to the public. When can I visit?

A: We do hope to eventually make parts of the Tevatron tunnel, and the CDF and DZero detectors, available for guided tours. Plans to incorporate these areas into Fermilab's public tour programs are currently in the works.

Top of page