Mailed 5/24/96


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)344-2345.

IMPROVING THE SAFETY OF CHORNOBYL -- The worst nuclear reactor accident in history -- the explosion of Russia's Chornobyl-4 -- released an estimated 50 million curies of radioactive material into the environment on April 26, 1986. Nevertheless, Chornobyl-3, a reactor housed in the same building as Chornobyl-4, is still operating. The recent Nuclear Safety Summit has called for the shutdown of the four reactors in the entire Chornobyl plant by the year 2000.

Under a U.S. Department of Energy program, Brookhaven Lab is helping to improve Chornobyl's safety and formulating plans to assure that its decommissioning will be safe and efficient. Brookhaven has provided Chornobyl with an analytic simulator -- a sophisticated computer that enables reactor workers to simulate accidents for training purposes. In addition, we have established training programs for plant operators to improve their response under normal and emergency conditions. The Laboratory is also serving as technical lead for a joint U.S.-Russia decommissioning study for the Chernobyl-type power plants still operating in Russia, Lithuania and Ukraine.

FORMULATING INFRASTRUCTURE POLICY FOR THE 21ST CENTURY -- The U.S. infrastructure -- its roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, tunnels, railroads, airports, etc. -- is in need of an extensive overhaul. To arrive at some decisions on how to best tackle this problem in the present climate of very limited budgets, about 160 experts involved in the construction and repair of infrastructure systems are expected to attend an all-day colloquium on Monday, June 3, at Columbia University. The colloquium is sponsored by the New York Building Congress, Inc., and the National Infrastructure Center for Engineering Systems and Technology Initiative, which is a consortium founded at Brookhaven Lab.

The colloquium delegates will work toward a consensus on how new technology options can lead to better and cheaper infrastructure in the 21st century and how to attract additional infrastructure projects to the New York region.

While the general public cannot attend the colloquium due to space limitations, the media are invited. For more information, call Professor F.H. Griffis at Columbia University, (212)854-8873.

USING INFRARED LIGHT TO EXAMINE HOW METALS BOND -- Using the brightest broadband beam of infrared light in the world at Brookhaven's National Synchrotron Light Source, research collaborators from AT&T, Brookhaven Lab and Exxon are applying a technique called surface vibrational spectroscopy to small atoms, such as carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen, to understand how the surfaces of industrial metals bond. The new technique yields important data on the strength and nature of the bonds. Such basic research may lead to important clues on how to improve catalysts and control corrosion.

RUSSIAN-BUILT MAGNETS FOR PHENIX DETECTOR -- The Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) will be Brookhaven Lab's largest particle accelerator when it is completed in 1999. A crucial part of the $500 million facility's construction will begin this spring when two huge steel magnets made in Russia are installed in PHENIX, one of RHIC's four detectors.

PHENIX, or Pioneering High Energy Nuclear Interaction Experiment, is a 3,000-ton device about the size of a four-story house. It will detect and analyze subatomic particles too small to be observed directly. The particles are the result of collisions of large atomic nuclei called heavy ions.

Over 400 scientists from 45 institutions in 10 countries will be involved in the PHENIX experiment. The physicists hope to recreate a form of matter called quark-gluon plasma, which has not existed since moments after the Big Bang.