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The outlook for the supply of neutrons is not encouraging. Why is this important, you might ask? Scientists and engineers use beams of neutrons (elementary particles that, together with protons, are the constituents of all atomic nuclei) to study the properties of materials such as semiconductors, superconductors, and biological specimens. In other words, they are essential tools for basic and applied research.
Neutrons are produced at large expensive facilities. The Megascience Forum has found that most of the existing neutron sources will have to shut down during the next twenty years. That goes mainly for reactor-based neutron sources, whereas the number of accelerator-based sources will decline less sharply. The Forum has made specific recommendations to governments regarding the construction of new sources, based on a desired world-wide regional balance and the projected demand across a wide range of disciplines, from the life sciences, to geology, to fundamental physics. After the Forum's deliberations were completed, a number of important decisions were made for example, the United States decided to build a 1.3 billion dollar accelerator-based neutron source in Tennessee.©OECD Observer No 217-218, Summer 1999