Fermi National Laboratory

Volume 22  |  Friday, June 18, 1999  |  Number 12
In This Issue  |  FermiNews Main Page

A Banner Day for the Main Injector

Richardson champions international science at the dedication of the $260 million accelerator.

We needed to have FERMILAB working on something positive, to bring the best people and the best minds here, to give Fermilab a Future.

by Mike Perricone

U.S. Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson welcomed Fermilab’s newly-completed Main Injector as a national prize, but he also held it up as an international example.

"The key to the success of this project is international collaboration. It would be a shame to stop that," he proclaimed, countering the calls in Congress for limiting international access to the Department of Energy’s national laboratories.

"There are some who are proposing," Richardson said, "that, in the name of national security, we should restrict our ability to attract the world’s finest scientists to our laboratories. This would be unwise, and we will fight it all the way."

Richardson shared the podium with fellow guest speakers Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and George Ryan, Governor of Illinois, at the June 1 ceremonies for the dedication of the $260 million accelerator, a seven-year project that was completed on time and under budget.

Culminating the dedication ceremonies, Richardson and Hastert shared the duties of formally placing the Main Injector in operation under the guidance of Steve Holmes, Project Manager for the Main Injector since its inception. Richardson and Hastert each turned a ceremonial key at a special podium on stage, engaging the safety system in the tunnel. Then each in turn pushed a key on a computer, displaying the introduction of beam into the Main Injector, its acceleration to 120 GeV (billion electron volts) for antiproton production, and its acceleration for 120-GeV fixed-target operations.

The day’s follow-up festivities were replete with the Batavia High School marching band, and a Lab-wide picnic held that afternoon outside Wilson Hall and in the building’s banner-bedecked atrium—with Richardson sharing in a hot dog and hamburger lunch and talking baseball with an impromptu cross-section of Lab employees, as well as conferring with Lab officials and dignitaries.

Hastert, who represents the 14th Congressional District of Illinois where the Lab is located, said the Main Injector "ensures that Fermilab is THE place in the world to conduct high-energy physics." Richardson emphasized that the Main Injector "will provide scientists the tool that opens new thresholds of discovery in the physics of elementary particles."

Richardson said that DOE would tighten security at some national laboratories and dismiss some personnel over the allegations of passing classified information to China. But he used the Ramsey Auditorium stage as a pulpit for preaching the value of the international exchange of ideas and knowledge. He also preached the economic benefits of international collaboration.

"One of the reasons this project was brought in on time was because its commissioning was so short," Richardson said. "The final engineering phase of a machine this large and this powerful is an art. It was expected to take up to a year. But under Dr. Shekhar Mishra—of India—the commissioning team completed its work in two months, saving millions of dollars. That is remarkable. Dr. Mishra, thank you."

Richardson emphasized that there were no security problems at Fermilab, which conducts no classified research. He noted that roughly half of Fermilab’s 2,700 researchers come from 20 different countries, including Russia, China, India, Israel, Taiwan and the Ukraine.

"At a time when some may question the value of scientists from other countries and the ways they benefit America," he continued, "I say let them visit Fermilab, and meet Dr. Mishra; and meet the head of our Computing Division (Mattias Kasemann), who is German; and the head of Theory (Keith Ellis), who is British. The great scientist Isaac Newton understood that the laws of physics should be universal. They are equally valid here in Illinois as they are in Europe, in Asia, and on the moon. The human drive to understand the basis of all matter, and the fate of our cosmos, is universal."

Richardson’s comments were welcomed by the internationally-diverse audience of nearly 800 Fermilab staffers in Ramsey Auditorium. Also welcomed were the comments of Gov. Ryan, who invited the Secretary to return any time, "and if you want to bring more money, that’s even better."

The recently-elected Ryan announced the formation of an Internet-based "clearinghouse" that he hopes will help Illinois improve its share of federal tax dollars. Businesses and local governments can use the Web site (http://www.state.il.us/fedclear/) to learn about federal grants and how to become suppliers of goods and services to the federal government.

"For too many years," Ryan said, "Illinois has struggled to receive our share of federal money."

Fermilab Director John Peoples pointed out that a $2.2 million challenge grant from the State of Illinois gave the Main Injector a jump-start in 1991, allowing the Lab to begin the preliminary design process.

Hastert’s involvement with Fermilab goes back to his earliest days in Congress, and his connection to the Main Injector stems from the aftermath of a major science project that Fermilab and Illinois lost—the Superconducting Super Collider, which was eventually discontinued and dismantled by Congress when costs rose from an estimated $5.9 billion to more than $10 billion.

But when Texas was chosen as the site for the SSC in 1989, "the future for Fermilab looked pretty bleak," Hastert recalled.

That prompted a series of meetings, and the growth of a close collaboration, between Hastert and Peoples, to formulate a plan for Fermilab’s future, a future that soon came to hinge on the construction of the Main Injector. The proposed accelerator would greatly increase the number of proton-antiproton collisions in the Tevatron, clearing a path for new discoveries at the world’s highest-energy particle accelerator. The Main Injector would also allow Fermilab to run the Tevatron concurrently with fixed-target experiments, which its predecessor, the Main Ring, was unable to do.

Hastert and Peoples began a concerted joint effort to bring the message to the Bush Administration in Washington, D.C., beginning with the Office of Management and Budget. Hastert wanted a new project for the national laboratory in his district, and knew the importance of making that project part of what he called "the jargon of Congress."

"We needed to have Fermilab working on something positive, to bring the best people and the best minds here, to give Fermilab a future," Hastert said. "Ironically, the SSC kind of faded away. It was so big, it was taking up so much funding, that no other science was taking place. And ironically, one of the goals of the SSC was to discover the top quark—I asked John Peoples to sit down and explain it to me, and I can tell you, it took some explaining, because I only got a C+ in physics. But lo and behold, the top quark was discovered here (in 1995) long before it was supposed to be discovered in Texas."

When ground was broken in 1993 for the Main Injector project, Hastert handled one of the shovels.

"In early 1990s, a young Congressman from the 14th District of Illinois took up the cause of the Main Injector at Fermilab, and he has never let it go," Peoples said.

Peoples recalled that an original project of the Lab, construction of the 400 GeV accelerator, was also completed on time and on budget, and in fact "gave the taxpayers something extra." The finished accelerator doubled the original design specification of 200 GeV. The Main Injector followed that tradition of giving something extra: also completed within the original budget and schedule is a companion accelerator, the Antiproton Recycler, which will greatly aid the Lab’s creation of costly antimatter for collisions in the Tevatron.

The Main Injector project has virtually spanned the directorship of Peoples, who hands over leadership of the Lab to Mike Witherell on July 1. Though stepping down as director, Peoples will remain active at the Lab as chief executive officer of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Each of the guest speakers lauded his work.

"I want to say something about John Peoples," Richardson said, "not just the accomplishment of building the Main Injector on budget and on time, but for the work John has done for his country and for science. We know he’s stepping down but not leaving, that he has plans for the future in astrophysics. But today, John, the nation honors you."

Peoples was given a standing ovation. Yet while he was honored for his past work, Peoples had his eye on the future from the start of the day’s activities. As he introduced the program, the Director noticed a newspaper photographer working near the foot of the stage with an infant strapped onto his back.

"We welcome our honored guests," Peoples said, pausing and addressing the baby, "of all ages. We need physicists for the future, so keep at it!"

last modified 6/18/1999   email Fermilab