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NNSA Completes Ion Beam Laboratory Ahead of Schedule, Under Budget

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today announced that it has completed the Ion Beam Laboratory (IBL) in Albuquerque, N.M. The facility was built at Sandia National Laboratories and was six months early and $5.5 million under budget.

 “Completing the Ion Beam Laboratory ahead of schedule and under budget is a clear example of how NNSA is improving the way we do business,” said Don Cook, NNSA’s Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs. “We’re committed to ensuring our projects are managed efficiently, saving critical taxpayer dollars.”

The 27,000-square-foot building was constructed and equipped at a cost of $39.6 million. Funds for the facility came from earlier savings from Sandia’s Microsystems and Engineering Sciences Applications (MESA) complex project. Costs included construction of the new building, purchase of upgraded accelerators, relocating existing accelerators and beam lines along with personnel, and decontamination and demolition of the old facility constructed in the 1950s.

Among the uses of the building’s high-energy ion beams is to rapidly analyze materials (an ion is an atom with too few or too many electrons). A low-energy ion implantation beam can alter material properties to, for example create the electronic “chips” that permeate military and civilian life.

Other research areas include microscopic diagnostics of radiation sensitivity of integrated circuits and simulating the effects of the enormous fluxes of neutrons associated with nuclear detonations to provide data that will help protect U.S. electronics against such an occurrence. The beams are also used to calibrate and certify components for the nuclear stockpile.

The IBL contains six accelerator systems capable of generating ions of every element in nature with energies from one electron volt (eV) to 400 million electron volts (MeV); intensities ranging from just a single ion to trillions of ions per second. One eV is enough to ionize a single atom or energize a single photon; 400 MeV will accelerate the heaviest ions to 7 percent the speed of light.

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Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science in the nation’s national security enterprise. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.