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Schumer and Gillibrand push for funding to save Brookhaven atom smasher

Brookhaven's atom smasher has been ranked last as

Brookhaven's atom smasher has been ranked last as a priority for funding, making its future uncertain. Both New York senators have urged continued funding. Credit: Newsday, 2005 / John Paraskevas

New York's Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand have asked the White House  to increase physics research funding by $50 million next year, hoping to prevent the closing of  Brookhaven National Laboratory’s ion collider..

The move comes after a scientific advisory committee ranked the atom smasher last among three projects vying for funding in the face of potential federal budget cuts, leaving the Upton facility in danger of closing if funding doesn’t increase.

“Even though this report is nonbinding, it should serve as a call to arms for those who care about scientific research, Long Island’s economy, and our nation’s position at the forefront of innovation,” Schumer said in a statement.  

The collider, which smashes infinitesimal particles at nearly the speed of light, has a budget of roughly $165 million, supporting about 800 jobs. It fell short to facilities in Michigan and Virginia.

The Energy Department asked the committee for advice on making tough decisions in the event its future funding shrinks as lawmakers work to trim the federal deficit. The panel emphasized that terminating any of the projects would be a "disaster" for nuclear science.

The 2.4-mile collider ring, used to study matter's basic properties by recreating conditions from the dawn of the universe, has funding to continue operating for at least another year.

"If we are going to out-innovate and out-compete other countries in the fields of science and technology, we must continue to invest in cutting edge facilities like the country's only ion collider at Brookhaven National Lab," Gillibrand said.

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