Europe on course for a neutron drought

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Science  18 Mar 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6279, pp. 1252
DOI: 10.1126/science.351.6279.1252

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Neutrons may be ubiquitous in matter, but the intense, energetic neutron beams that scientists use to probe the structure and behavior of materials are a scarce commodity. In Europe, they will soon get a lot scarcer, according to a panel of experts commissioned to assess the impact of the imminent closure of many of the continent's aging neutron reactors. The panel, known as the Neutron Landscape Group, said last week that as the aging reactors shut down over the next 5 to 10 years, the number of neutrons available for research will fall by as much as half. A new, accelerator-based neutron source, the world's most intense, is due to turn on in Sweden by the end of the decade. But it will take years to reach full capacity, and in the meantime scientists who rely on neutrons will face a drought, unless the life span of some of the reactors can be extended.