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Brookhaven National Laboratory

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Brookhaven National Laboratory

Brookhaven National Laboratory
An aerial view of BNL. The prominent ring under construction is the National Synchrotron Light Source 2 (NSLS-II).
Motto "Passion for discovery"
Established 1947
Research type Nuclear physics, material physics and chemistry, environmental and biological research
Budget Over US$700 million (2013)
Director Doon Gibbs
Staff 3,000
Location Upton, New York
Campus 21 km2 (5,265 acres)
Operating agency
Brookhaven Science Associates, LLC

Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) is a United States 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 in the greater area of the Town of Brookhaven.


Brookhaven, which originally was owned by the Stony Brook University and Battelle Memorial Institute. It was operated by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI), from 1947 until 1998 when Associated lost the contract in the wake of a scandal when tritium leaked into the Long Island Central Pine Barrens groundwater on which it sits.[1]

Co-located with the laboratory is the Upton, New York forecast office of the National Weather Service.

BNL is staffed by approximately 3,000 scientists, engineers, technicians, and support personnel, and hosts 4,000 guest investigators every year.[2] Discoveries made at the lab have won seven Nobel Prizes.[3]

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. BNL is served by a rail spur operated as-needed by the New York and Atlantic Railway.


Military conscripts entering the Camp Upton site, which would in 1947 be repurposed as BNL, in 1917
Brookhaven National Laboratory was established in 1947 on the site of Camp Upton, a training center during both World War I and World War II. After the latter war, the camp was deemed no longer necessary. Meanwhile, discussions were underway for the creation of a new science facility that would focus on the peaceful uses of atomic energy. For this task a nonprofit corporation was established that consisted of representatives from nine major research universities — Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Princeton, Penn, Rochester, and Yale University. With the corporation finding the Camp Upton site ideal in terms of space and transportation, 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).

Major programs

Although originally conceived as a nuclear research facility, its mission has greatly expanded. Its foci are now:

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

Major facilities


Exterior of National Synchrotron Light Source II facility, taken 22 July 2012 during Brookhaven National Laboratory "Summer Sundays" public tour.

The lab is building NSLS-II, which in 2015 will replace the NSLS after more than 30 years of operation.[19]

Off-site contributions

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.

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

Public access

For other than approved Public Events the Laboratory is closed to the general public. The lab is open to the public on Sundays during the summer for tours and special programs. The public access program is referred to as 'Summer Sundays' and takes place from mid-July to mid-August, and features a science show and a tour of the facilities. The laboratory also hosts science fairs, science bowls, and robotics competitions for local schools. The Lab estimates that each year it enhances the science education of roughly 24,000 kindergarten to 12th grade LI students, more than 100 undergraduates, and 550 teachers from across the United States.


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.

Nobel Prizes

Nobel Prize in Physics

Nobel Prize in Chemistry

See also


  1. ^ Atomic Laboratory on Long Island to Be Mighty Research Center – New York Times – March 1, 1947
  2. ^ "About BNL". Retrieved 2012-07-25. 
  3. ^ "Nobel Prizes at BNL". Retrieved 2012-07-25. 
  4. ^ "Physics Department". 2008-05-12. Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  5. ^ "Homepage, Basic Energy Sciences Directorate". Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  6. ^ "Environmental Sciences Department". 2009-02-04. Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  7. ^ "Brookhaven National Laboratory Nonproliferation and National Security Programs". 2010-02-02. Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  8. ^ "Radiotracer Chemistry and Instrumentation for Biological Imaging". Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  9. ^ "Biology Department – Brookhaven National Laboratory". Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  10. ^ "RHIC | Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider". Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  11. ^ "Center for Functional Nanomaterials, Brookhaven National Laboratory". Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  12. ^ "National Synchrotron Light Source". Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  13. ^ a b "Nobel Prize | 2003 Chemistry Prize, Roderick MacKinnon". Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  14. ^ "Alternating Gradient Synchrotron". 2008-01-31. Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  15. ^ "Accelerator Test Facility". 2008-01-31. Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  16. ^ "Tandem Van de Graaff". 2008-02-28. Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  17. ^ New York Blue Gene supercomputer
  18. ^ "Computing Power for Scientific Discovery". Retrieved August 4, 2010. 
  19. ^ "NSLS-II: The Furture National Synchrotron Light Source". Retrieved August 4, 2010. 
  20. ^ "Nobel Prize | 1957 Physics Prize, Lee and Yang". Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  21. ^ "Nobel Prize | 1976 Prize in Physics, Samuel Ting". Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  22. ^ "Nobel Prize | 1980 Physics Prize, Cronin and Fitch". Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  23. ^ "Nobel Prize | 1988 Prize in Physics, Lederman, Schwartz and Steinberger". Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  24. ^ "Nobel Prize | 2002 Physics Prize, Raymond Davis jr". Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  25. ^ "Nobel Prize | 2009 Chemistry Prize, Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Thomas A. Steitz". Retrieved 2010-05-20. 
  26. ^ 9:13 am ET (2008-10-23). "The anatomy of the first video game - On the Level". MSNBC. Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  27. ^ "'+alt+'". Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  • "Dr. Strangelet or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Big Bang"

External links

  • Brookhaven National Lab Official Website
  • Physics Today: DOE Shuts Brookhaven Lab’s HFBR in a Triumph of Politics Over Science 404
  • Summer Sundays at Brookhaven National Laboratory
  • Annotated bibliography for Brookhaven Laboratory from the Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues
  • Headlines

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