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Brookhaven National Laboratory

Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) is a United States Department of Energy national laboratory located in Upton, New York, on Long Island, and was formally established in 1947 at the site of Camp Upton, a former U.S. Army base. Its name stems from its location within the Town of Brookhaven, approximately 60 miles east of New York City.

Brookhaven National Laboratory
Brookhaven National Laboratory logo.svg
High Flux Beam Reactor - Brookhaven (7494424838).jpg
View of Brookhaven National Laboratory campus, with the High Flux Beam Reactor in the foreground
Motto "Passion for discovery"
Established 1947
Research type Nuclear and high-energy physics, materials science, nanomaterials, chemistry, energy, and environmental, biological, and climate sciences
Budget Over US$550 million (2015)
Director Doon Gibbs
Staff 2,750
Location Upton, Suffolk County,
New York, United States
40°52′30″N 72°52′37″W / 40.875°N 72.877°W / 40.875; -72.877Coordinates: 40°52′30″N 72°52′37″W / 40.875°N 72.877°W / 40.875; -72.877
Campus 21 km2 (5,265 acres)
Operating agency
Brookhaven Science Associates, LLC
Brookhaven National Laboratory is located in New York
Brookhaven National Laboratory
Location in New York

Research at BNL specializes in nuclear and high energy physics, energy science and technology, environmental and bioscience, nanoscience and national security. The 5300 acre campus contains several large research facilities, including the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider and National Synchrotron Light Source II. Seven Nobel prizes have been awarded for work conducted at Brookhaven lab. [1]



BNL is staffed by approximately 2,750 scientists, engineers, technicians, and support personnel, and hosts 4,000 guest investigators every year.[2] The laboratory has its own police station, fire department, and ZIP code (11973). In total, the lab spans a 5,265-acre (21 km2) area that is mostly coterminous with the hamlet of Upton, New York. BNL is served by a rail spur operated as-needed by the New York and Atlantic Railway. Co-located with the laboratory is the Upton, New York, forecast office of the National Weather Service.[3]

Major programsEdit

Location of Brookhaven National Laboratory relative to New York City

Although originally conceived as a nuclear research facility, Brookhaven Lab's mission has greatly expanded. Its foci are now:


Brookhaven National Lab was originally owned by the Atomic Energy Commission and is now owned by that agency's successor, the United States Department of Energy (DoE). DoE subcontracts the research and operation to universities and research organizations. It is currently operated by Brookhaven Science Associates LLC, which is an equal partnership of Stony Brook University and Battelle Memorial Institute. From 1947 to 1998, it was operated by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI), but AUI lost its contract in the wake of two incidents: a 1994 fire at the facility's high-beam flux reactor that exposed several workers to radiation and reports in 1997 of a tritium leak into the groundwater of the Long Island Central Pine Barrens on which the facility sits.[9][10]



Following World War II, the US Atomic Energy Commission was created to support government-sponsored peacetime research on atomic energy. The effort to build a nuclear reactor in the American northeast was fostered largely by physicists Isidor Isaac Rabi and Norman Foster Ramsey Jr., who during the war witnessed many of their colleagues at Columbia University leave for new remote research sites following the departure of the Manhattan Project from its campus. Their effort to house this reactor near New York City was rivalled by a similar effort at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to have a facility near Boston. Involvement was quickly solicited from representatives of northeastern universities to the south and west of New York City such that this city would be at their geographic center. In March 1946 a nonprofit corporation was established that consisted of representatives from nine major research universities — Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, University of Rochester, and Yale University. [11]

Soldiers during World War I at the Camp Upton site, which would in 1947 be repurposed as BNL

Out of 17 considered sites in the Boston-Washington corridor, Camp Upton on Long Island was eventually chosen as the most suitable in consideration of space, transportation, and availability. The camp had been a training center from the US Army during both World War I and World War II. After the latter war, Camp Upton was deemed no longer necessary and became available for reuse. A plan was conceived to convert the military camp into a research facility.

On March 21, 1947, the Camp Upton site was officially transferred from the U.S. War Department to the new U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), predecessor to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Research and facilitiesEdit

Reactor historyEdit

In 1947 construction began on the first nuclear reactor at Brookhaven, the Brookhaven Graphite Research Reactor. This reactor, which opened in 1950, was the first reactor to be constructed in the United States after World War II. The High Flux Beam Reactor operated from 1965 to 1999. In 1959 Brookhaven built the first US reactor specifically tailored to medical research, the Brookhaven Medical Research Reactor, which operated until 2000.

Accelerator historyEdit

Satoshi Ozaki posed with a magnet for the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider in 1991

In 1952 Brookhaven began using its first particle accelerator, the Cosmotron. At the time the Cosmotron was the world's highest energy accelerator, being the first to impart more than 1 GeV of energy to a particle. The Cosmotron was retired in 1966, after it was superseded in 1960 by the new Alternating Gradient Synchrotron (AGS). The AGS was used in research that resulted in 3 Nobel prizes, including the discovery of the muon neutrino, the charm quark, and CP violation. The National Synchrotron Light Source operated from 1982 to 2014 and was involved with two Nobel Prize-winning discoveries. It has since been replaced by the National Synchrotron Light Source II. The Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) has been operational since 2000. One of the world's only two operating heavy-ion colliders, RHIC is as of 2010 the second-highest-energy collider after the Large Hadron Collider. RHIC is housed in a tunnel 2.4 miles (3.9 km) long and is visible from space.

Other discoveriesEdit

In 1958, Brookhaven scientists created one of the world's first video games, Tennis for Two. In 1968 Brookhaven scientists patented Maglev, a transportation technology that utilizes magnetic levitation.

Major facilitiesEdit

Off-site contributionsEdit

It is a contributing partner to ATLAS experiment, one of the four detectors located at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). It is currently operating at CERN near Geneva, Switzerland.[23]

Brookhaven was also responsible for the design of the SNS accumulator ring in partnership with Spallation Neutron Source in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Brookhaven plays a role in a range of neutrino research projects around the world, including the Daya Bay Reactor Neutrino Experiment in China and the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.[24]

Public accessEdit

Exterior of National Synchrotron Light Source II facility in 2012, during a Brookhaven National Laboratory "Summer Sundays" public tour.

For other than approved Public Events, the Laboratory is closed to the general public. The lab is open to the public on several Sundays during the summer for tours and special programs. The public access program is referred to as 'Summer Sundays' and takes place on four Sundays from mid-July to mid-August, and features a science show and a tour of the lab's major facilities.[25] The laboratory also hosts science fairs, science bowls, and robotics competitions for local schools, and lectures, concerts, and scientific talks for the local community. The Lab estimates that each year it enhances the science education of roughly 35,000 kindergarten to 12th grade LI students, more than 200 undergraduates, and 550 teachers from across the United States.

Controversy and Environmental CleanupEdit

In January 1997, ground water samples taken by BNL staff revealed concentrations of tritium that were twice the allowable federal drinking water standards—some samples taken later were 32 times the standard. The tritium was found to be leaking from the laboratory's High Flux Beam Reactor's spent-fuel pool into the aquifer that provides drinking water for nearby Suffolk County residents.

DOE's and BNL's investigation of this incident concluded that the tritium had been leaking for as long as 12 years without DOE's or BNL's knowledge. Installing wells that could have detected the leak was first discussed by BNL engineers in 1993, but the wells were not completed until 1996. The resulting controversy about both BNL's handling of the tritium leak and perceived lapses in DOE's oversight led to the termination of AUI as the BNL contractor in May 1997.

The responsibility for failing to discover Brookhaven's tritium leak has been acknowledged by laboratory managers, and DOE admits it failed to properly oversee the laboratory's operations. Brookhaven officials repeatedly treated the need for installing monitoring wells that would have detected the tritium leak as a low priority despite public concern and the laboratory's agreement to follow local environmental regulations. DOE's on-site oversight office, the Brookhaven Group, was directly responsible for Brookhaven's performance, but it failed to hold the laboratory accountable for meeting all of its regulatory commitments, especially its agreement to install monitoring wells. Senior DOE leadership also shared responsibility because they failed to put in place an effective system that encourages all parts of DOE to work together to ensure that contractors meet their responsibilities on environmental, safety and health issues. Unclear responsibilities for environment, safety and health matters has been a recurring problem for DOE management.

Since 1993, DOE has spent more than US$580 million on remediating soil and groundwater contamination at the lab site and completed several high-profile projects. These include the decommissioning and decontamination of the Brookhaven Graphite Research Reactor,[26] removal of mercury-contaminated sediment from the Peconic River, and installation and operation of 16 on- and off-site groundwater treatment systems that have cleaned more than 25 billion gallons of groundwater since 1996.[27]

Shortly after winning the contract to operate the lab in 1997, BSA formed a Community Advisory Council (CAC) to advise the laboratory director on cleanup projects and other items of interest to the community. The CAC represents a diverse range of interests and values of individuals and groups who are interested in or affected by the actions of the Laboratory. It consists of representatives from 26 local business, civic, education, environment, employee, government, and health organizations. The CAC sets its own agenda, brings forth issues important to the community, and works to provide consensus recommendations to Laboratory management.[28]

Nobel PrizesEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Nobel Prizes at BNL". Retrieved 2012-07-25. 
  2. ^ "About BNL". Retrieved 2016-06-21. 
  3. ^ "NWS Forecast Office New York, NY". September 5, 2017. 
  4. ^ "Physics Department". 2008-05-12. Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  5. ^ "Homepage, Basic Energy Sciences Directorate". Archived from the original on May 27, 2010. Retrieved March 17, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Environmental Sciences Department". February 4, 2009. Archived from the original on March 8, 2010. Retrieved March 17, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Brookhaven National Laboratory Nonproliferation and National Security Programs". 2010-02-02. Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  8. ^ "Biology Department – Brookhaven National Laboratory". Archived from the original on March 13, 2009. Retrieved March 17, 2010. 
  9. ^ Atomic Laboratory on Long Island to Be Mighty Research Center – New York Times – March 1, 1947
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ Crease, Robert P. (1999). Making Physics: A Biography of Brookhaven National Laboratory. 
  12. ^ "RHIC | Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider". Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  13. ^ "RHIC | Spin Physics". Retrieved 2016-08-23. 
  14. ^ "Center for Functional Nanomaterials, Brookhaven National Laboratory". Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  15. ^ "National Synchrotron Light Source". Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  16. ^ a b "Nobel Prize | 2003 Chemistry Prize, Roderick MacKinnon". Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  17. ^ "Alternating Gradient Synchrotron". 2008-01-31. Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  18. ^ "Accelerator Test Facility". January 31, 2008. Archived from the original on May 27, 2010. Retrieved March 17, 2010. 
  19. ^ "Tandem Van de Graaff". February 28, 2008. Archived from the original on February 19, 2010. Retrieved March 17, 2010. 
  20. ^ New York Blue Gene supercomputer
  21. ^ "BNL Newsroom | Doors Open at New Interdisciplinary Science Building for Energy Research at Brookhaven Lab". Retrieved 2016-08-23. 
  22. ^ "BNL | NASA Space Radiation Laboratory (NSRL)". Retrieved 2016-08-23. 
  23. ^ "BNL | Brookhaven and the Large Hadron Collider". Retrieved 2016-08-23. 
  24. ^ "BNL | Neutrino Research History". Retrieved 2016-08-23. 
  25. ^ "BNL | Summer Sundays". Retrieved 2016-08-23. 
  26. ^ "Lab reactor fully decommissioned". Retrieved 2016-08-23. 
  27. ^ "Environmental Cleanup, Brookhaven National Laboratory". Retrieved 2016-08-23. 
  28. ^ "BNL | Community Advisory Council". Retrieved 2016-08-23. 
  29. ^ "Nobel Prize | 1957 Physics Prize, Lee and Yang". Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  30. ^ "Nobel Prize | 1976 Prize in Physics, Samuel Ting". Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  31. ^ "Nobel Prize | 1980 Physics Prize, Cronin and Fitch". Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  32. ^ "Nobel Prize | 1988 Prize in Physics, Lederman, Schwartz and Steinberger". Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  33. ^ "Nobel Prize | 2002 Physics Prize, Raymond Davis jr". Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  34. ^ "Nobel Prize | 2009 Chemistry Prize, Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Thomas A. Steitz". Retrieved 2010-05-20. 
  35. ^ "The anatomy of the first video game - On the Level". MSNBC. 2008-10-23. Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  36. ^ "'+alt+'". Retrieved 2010-03-17. 

External linksEdit