Contact: Mona S.Rowe,(516) 282-2345 or
Diane Greenberg, (516) 282-2347

Mailed 11/6/95


NOTE TO EDITORS: "BNL Spotlights" is issued periodically to bring you up to date on some of the latest newsworthy developments at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory. For more information on any of these items, call Diane Greenberg or Mona S. Rowe at BNL's Public Affairs Office at (516)282-2345.


When underground pipe-type cables develop a leak, extensive excavations might be required, at a cost of $10,000 to $30,000 each, to locate the source of the leak. Now, a new technology developed at Brookhaven, with funding from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the Empire State Electric Energy Research Corporation, and the Consolidated Edison Company of New York (Con Ed), uses environmentally safe organic compounds called perfluorocarbon tracers (PFTs) to locate these pipe-type cable leaks of dielectric fluid -- the fluid that insulates and cools electric cables -- with minimal excavation. PFTs are injected into the cable fluid, and the PFT vapor is then released at the point where the leak occurs. A device called a dual-trap analyzer can sense the vapor in the air and pinpoint the area of the leak.

The tracer technology has been successfully employed to pinpoint the location of 20 dielectric leaks in the U.S. and the United Kingdom. With support from Con Ed and EPRI, Brookhaven is working with the private sector to bring the technology to the market: Underground Systems, Inc., in Armonk, New York, has commercialized the injection apparatus; Sentex Systems, Inc., in Ridgefield, New Jersey, is making the dual-trap analyzers; and Entertech Consultants in Campbell, California, is developing an expert computerized system to support decisions in the leak-pinpointing process.


Each of the 3,300 jobs at Brookhaven National Laboratory supports at least two other jobs on Long Island, according to a recent report by the Suffolk County Planning Commission. During fiscal year 1995, the Lab's total spending of $423 million caused Long Island's output to increase by more than $797 million and created more than 13,000 secondary jobs. Also, 80 percent of the $618 million BNL spent on construction between 1984 and 1995 stayed on Long Island. In addition, scientific visitors to Brookhaven pump in more than $15 million into the local economy annually.


Since the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, both the U.S. and Russia have had a growing interest in improving controls for protecting and accounting for plutonium and highly enriched uranium -- the crucial materials for making nuclear weapons. Sharing the common goal of reducing risks of nuclear proliferation, U.S. and Russian officials are concerned about possible diversion of these materials to other countries.

The U.S. Department of Energy has given Brookhaven, as well as several other national labs, the crucial task of working with Russia to safeguard these nuclear materials. This involves taking inventories of the materials, as well as developing access control systems and physical protection systems. To explain how this is done, Dr. C. Ruth Kempf, one of the Brookhaven scientists working in the safeguards area, will give a lecture for interested employees on Wednesday, January 17, at 4 p.m. in Brookhaven Lab's Berkner Hall. The public is also invited.


Proteins, a complex combination of amino acids, are an essential ingredient of every living cell. In order to determine a protein's molecular structure from crystallographic data, for functional studies or drug design, protein crystals must be as perfect as possible. To find the best protein crystals for data collection, a collaboration from Brookhaven, the University of Alabama at Huntsville and the University of Manchester in England used a technique called x-ray topography at Brookhaven's National Synchrotron Light Source for finding defects in the crystals.

Protein crystals were grown aboard a 1994 space shuttle mission and compared with those grown on earth. The researchers found that crystals grown under constant temperature or in the microgravity conditions found in space had fewer defects than those grown under small temperature changes or normal gravity conditions.