Virginia vs. New York: Who will get a new electron ion collider facility?

Posted at 8:40 PM, Jan 22, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-22 20:40:47-05

Newport News, Va. - The Jefferson Lab in Newport News is in a battle with the state of New York, as both duke it out for a new scientific facility that would cost millions to build.

"It's much like when two cars collide head-on. There's a lot more energy involved than if a car hits a standing stationary car," said Bob McKeown, Deputy Director for Science at the Jefferson Lab.

The lab's mission is to understand the basic blocks of matter and the atom's nucleus through research.

Right now, the lab has an electron beam accelerator facility deep underground to do experiments.  But if they get the green light from the U.S. Department of Energy, a $618 million electron ion collider facility would be built on vacant land adjacent to the lab's campus.  It would be underground.

What would that facility do, you ask?

"A colliding facility would enable us to extend the reach of the studies that we do here to much higher energies and therefore probe much deeper inside the atomic nucleus," said McKeown.  "We [would] see finer detail and extend the range of the particles we can look at."

It would take up to a decade to build the facility, creating more than 4,900 jobs and adding millions to the local economy.  The Jefferson Lab already has support from the Newport News community.

"To be able to attract such a project, you need the local support.  The U.S. government will be looking for that. So it's not surprising that New York would also be interested in trying to support the possibility of the project going to their state."

If New York wins out, the electron ion collider facility would be built at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, which is located on Long Island.

It could take between two and five years for the Department of Energy to make a decision whether or not the new facility would be built there or right here in Hampton Roads.