The FY 2012 budget request closes the Holifield Radioactive Ion Beam Facility at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which will save $10.3 million.$10.3 million dollars may seem like a lot, and to us, it is. It's our operating budget. But to the Department of Energy, it's hardly a line item. One only has to look at the previous item in Stephen Chu's blog post to reckon as much: cutting the credits and deductions currently being given to the oil and gas industry will save nearly $4 billion next year alone. They'll save billions of dollars, and yet are still going to push to close the HRIBF for a $10 million pittance?
The salt in the wound is that the cut would come, if you will, "unsupported." Whenever a facility suffers a funding cut or is shut down, it is after a lengthy ranking and peer review process. The peer review process ensures that facilities aren't shut down "out of the blue" (as is the case now), but because they have failed to produce good, and consistent, science. We've been given no such chance. We publish myriads of papers, including Physical Review Letters and even in Nature (here's a reminder). We were just awarded Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Directors Award (partway down this page). We present talk after talk at conference after conference. We are the only facility in the US that can produce high energy, high intensity beams of r-process nuclei like tin and tellurium, one of the only facilities that produces beams using the ISOL technique (the only one in the US that operates as a user facility), and we have the largest (25 million volts) tandem in the world.
This budget cut simply cannot stand. $10.3 million dollars in savings is not enough to justify setting back the US involvement in basic nuclear physics research by years, if not decades. Something must be done. Contact your Senators and Congressional delegates. Contact Stephen Chu and the DOE. But contact someone.
If you believe me at all, if you have caught any glimpse of what I've tried so hard to convey - the importance, and the wonder, of science - then please, act. I can ask no more. But I can also ask no less. Our future depends on it.