Feature Story | 7-Nov-2023

Argonne National Laboratory set to play pivotal role in realizing US goals for nuclear science research

Argonne facilities and expertise are central to the Nuclear Science Advisory Committee’s recent Long Range Plan

DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

The Nuclear Science Advisory Committee (NSAC) recently unveiled its 2023 Long Range Plan for Nuclear Science (LRP). This comprehensive plan charts the course for the nation’s programs in nuclear science research over the next decade.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, with its world-class nuclear physics facilities and expertise, is poised to play a pivotal role in realizing the goals outlined in the LRP.

“Our state-of-the-art facilities, dedicated researchers and unwavering commitment to scientific excellence at Argonne make us a driving force in advancing the field of nuclear science.” — Fredrik Tovesson, Argonne Physics division director

NSAC advises DOE and the National Science Foundation and is periodically charged with developing a framework for coordinated advancement of the U.S. nuclear science research programs based on community input. The new LRP is the eighth such plan published by NSAC since 1979 and the first in almost eight years.

Nuclear science is a multidisciplinary field centered on understanding the fundamental properties and interactions of atomic nuclei and their constituent particles. It seeks to answer profound questions about the nature of matter and nuclear forces, the creation of elements and the conditions of the early universe. It also plays a crucial role in addressing grand challenges in energy, health and national security.

“Since the release of the last Long Range Plan, the landscape of nuclear science has evolved significantly,” said Kawtar Hafidi, Argonne associate laboratory director for Physical Sciences and Engineering. “Today, we find ourselves on the precipice of exciting discoveries, revolutionary technological advancements and new challenges. The 2023 Long Range Plan serves as our compass, guiding us toward the most pressing questions and promising opportunities in the field.”

The document highlights the scientific opportunities in nuclear physics today to maintain world leadership in the context of four different budget scenarios and details progress since the last LRP. It also outlines the impact of nuclear science on other fields and applications of the research that benefit society.

“Our state-of-the-art facilities, dedicated researchers and unwavering commitment to scientific excellence at Argonne make us a driving force in advancing the field of nuclear science,” said Fredrik Tovesson, Argonne Physics division director. “This plan is a testament to our nation’s collective pursuit of the knowledge and practical impact nuclear science can yield, and we are energized by the opportunities ahead.”

The Argonne Tandem Linac Accelerator System (ATLAS), a DOE Office of Science user facility located at Argonne, is central to realizing the objectives outlined in the 2023 LRP. The document describes ATLAS as the world’s first superconducting linear accelerator for heavy ions and the premier DOE-funded stable-beam facility for nuclear physics.

ATLAS’s research programs focus on questions central to our understanding of matter and of the astrophysical processes that generate energy and produce elements in the stars. The facility is equipped to produce a wide range of stable ion beams, ranging from protons to uranium, with beam energies resembling conditions for nuclear reactions in the cosmos. These ions can be delivered to one of several world-unique instruments.

Argonne researchers are also advancing nuclear science through research and development in support of other DOE facilities, including the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams at Michigan State University, the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility at DOE’s Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility and the forthcoming Electron-Ion Collider at DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory. In addition, Argonne's Center for Accelerator Target Science supports low-energy nuclear physics research by providing stable and radioactive targets to various stakeholders, including dozens of laboratories in the United States and abroad.

Argonne is also committed to fostering a diverse future nuclear science workforce, recognizing the vital role diversity plays in driving innovation. Initiatives including educational programs, mentorship opportunities and outreach efforts are aimed at attracting and supporting individuals from underrepresented groups in the scientific community.

As part of the LRP announcement activities, Argonne hosted one of 21 satellite events across the nation on Oct. 6. Gail Dodge, dean of the College of Sciences at Old Dominion University and chair of the NSAC, attended the events virtually to discuss the LRP with participants nationwide. The Argonne attendees also heard from Hafidi and other members of Argonne leadership regarding how the LRP will help guide Argonne’s research efforts.

Dozens of researchers participated in a working group that led the development of the LRP, including three Argonne scientists: Physicist Michael Carpenter; Physics Deputy Division Director and Group Leader Ian Cloët; and Chemist and Group Leader Richard Wilson.

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