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IUCr 1997 Report - Commission on Neutron Scattering

The principal event for the Commission in 1997 was the International Conference on Neutron Scattering, organized by the Neutron Scattering Association of America, in Toronto, Canada, 16 - 20 August 1997. This meeting assembled about 200 scientists interested in neutron scattering and was most productive. It was extremely encouraging to see the breadth of neutron scattering applications developing in the USA, despite the set-backs which have occurred over the last few years in the construction of advanced neutron sources and the temporary shutdowns of the two major reactors at Brookhaven National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Many participants from Europe and other parts of the world also attended.

The development in North America parallels the developments in Europe, where the European Neutron Scattering Association held a remarkably well attended and excellent meeting at Interlaken, Switzerland, in the previous year. About 800 scientists interested in neutron scattering attended that meeting and, once again, there were very innovative papers in new areas of science which show the health of neutron scattering as a widely used technique.

At the Toronto meeting, a closed meeting of the Commission was held. Four present members of the Commission were involved, as well as B. Lebech (Denmark), and S. Mason (France). In view of the success of the International Conference on Neutron Scattering meetings both in Europe and in the USA, a major item on the agenda for the Commission meeting was the way in which the IUCr General Assembly and Congress meeting (with its microsymposia) as well as the Neutron Scattering Satellite meeting, held in conjunction with the IUCr General Assembly, could be fitted into the world programme. As a number of members of the Commission were on the Organizing Committees, both for the American and the European meetings, it was agreed that they would exert their influence to ensure that a regular cycle of meetings occurred. Scheduling should not disadvantage the neutron scattering component of the IUCr General Assembly and Congress. B. Lebech undertook to do this for the European meeting, and J. D. Jorgensen (who was one of the principal organizers of the Toronto meeting) was briefed to convey the information to the American Association. A phasing of the neutron scattering meetings in the two continents has been worked out and it is expected that, within the next three years, a programme could settle down which is of advantage to all.

Another matter raised at the closed Commission meeting was the formation of an Asia-Australasia Neutron Scattering Association, to complement the Neutron Scattering Associations in Europe and the USA. Various scenarios were discussed including combining the Asia-Australasia meeting with the USA meeting and having regular conferences in Hawaii, but it was finally resolved that if agreement could be obtained in the Asia-Pacific Region it was better that an Asia-Pacific or Asia-Australasia Neutron Scattering Association should be formed. J. W. White and Y. Fujii, from Australia and Japan, undertook to take this matter further as J. W. White is Chair of the Australian National Committee and Y. Fujii is Chair of the Japanese Neutron Scattering Association.

Worldwide developments in Neutron Scattering

At the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) Megascience Forum meetings, the question of provision of neutron scattering facilities worldwide was extensively discussed in 1997. One aspect of these discussions has been the suggestion that, for the period subsequent to the year 2000, there might be major new neutron sources in Europe, the USA and the Asia-Pacific Region. The suggestion went further to suggest that these might be sufficient to cover needs. Subsequent discussion has indicated that this is too narrow a view, and that high-quality medium-flux facilities existing in the various continents must be integrated into this scenario. These discussions are partly prompted by the fact that there may a `neutron drought' in the early part of the next century, due to the expected close-down of a number of the medium-flux facilities world-wide. Given the growth indicated by the conferences referred to earlier, this drought is a serious matter, as neutron techniques become more widely used. In addition, it is clear that complementarity between neutron scattering techniques and X-ray scattering techniques, particularly using synchrotrons, remains a totally true concept, and that there will need to be co-existing X-ray and neutron facilities, at the highest quality, well into the next century.

In response to these types of discussion, the USA has now funded the first stage of the construction of a major spallation neutron source at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. This will be the leading facility of its kind in the USA and will possibly surpass the quality of the ISIS Neutron Scattering Source at the Rutherford Laboratory in the UK. That source is currently the world's leading neutron spallation source. Complementary developments in Europe also took a step forward with the publication of the full documentation for the European Spallation Source (ESS). A very clear case for a site-independent instrument has been made, and these proposals, coupled with the fullest use of the existing facilities in Europe, are supported by the document prepared in 1996 by the European Science Foundation (the so-called AUTRANS Report, May 1996). In the Asia-Pacific Region, there are also major developments in spallation neutron sources promised. In March 1997, there was a meeting at the KEK (Tsukuba, Japan) to discuss the possibilities of the Japanese Hadron Project (JHP). This is a $1 billion project aimed at producing powerful beams for particle physics projects, but also, as a component, a powerful spallation neutron source (power at target 0.5 - 1.0 megawatts). Such an instrument would surpass the Rutherford Laboratory performance at ISIS by factors of between 5 and 40, depending on the neutron wavelength and the application. J. W. White and a number of members of this Commission participated in this discussion and funding is being sought through the Japanese Education Ministry at present. In this context, it is also worth mentioning a very recent development announced by the Japanese Atomic Energy Institute (JAERI). That Institute held a workshop and an advisory meeting in March 1998 to discuss their proposal for the 'Japanese Neutron Project'. This project is to build an accelerator capable of delivering up to 5 megawatts of proton beam power on to a target. As one can see, this greatly surpasses the power for even the Japanese Hadron Project and would give a neutron scattering facility of remarkable quality. The other aspect of this project, however, is that this beam could be used for prototype experiments on the spallation `burning' of transuranic radioactive waste.

J. W. White was made Chair of the Advisory Group to draw up its recommendations to the Japanese Atomic Energy Institute. The conclusions of the working group were that the spallation burning project might be feasible given the technology which the Japanese are developing. It is apparent that Korea has an interest in this process as well, and that other countries in Europe and America might also be concerned.

Australia has also embarked on a new reactor project. This is to replace the now 40-year-old HIFAR Reactor at Lucas Heights with a modern instrument capable of meeting Australia's medium-flux neutron demands at a quality which will endure into the middle of the next century. The reactor design and instrumentation conception are both now going ahead quickly with working parties drawn from the Academies and industry. The Australian government has decided to go ahead with the project. It is expected that this instrument will be complementary to the spallation neutron source developments in the Asia-Pacific Region.

Workshops and outreach

Members of the Commission have played a major part in organizing the international conferences referred to above, and preliminary submissions of microsymposia for the 1999 Glasgow Congress have been made. Plans are well developed for a Neutron Scattering Satellite Meeting in conjunction with the 1999 General Assembly and Congress.

As always, it is a pleasure to acknowledge the important contribution made to neutron scattering and the work of the Commission by Neutron News. The Commission wishes to thank G. Lander for his editorship and the lively way in which the magazine is presented.

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