Friday, 28 Jan 1994 Washington, DC
1. THE STATE OF THE UNION: "SCIENCE" WAS NOT ON THE TELEPROMPTER.
A search of the President's 7,500-word speech found no reference
to "science," and "research" came up only in connection with AIDS
and health care. Crime, health care and welfare reform just don't
involve a lot of physics. Mr. Clinton did mention "scientists"
once--but they weren't ours: "Instead of building weapons in
space," he said, "Russian scientists will help us build the space
station." Although the President promised to send Congress a
tough budget next month that will eliminate 100 domestic programs
and cut back on 300 more, he asked the lawmakers to "invest more
in the technologies of tomorrow as we reduce defense spending."
2. THE STATE OF HIGH-ENERGY PHYSICS: LOOKING FOR "A NEW VISION."
Sid Drell has agreed to chair a HEPAP "Future Vision" sub-panel.
He promises a long-range plan by the end of May. But at a hearing
on Wednesday before the House Science Subcommittee, OSTP
Director John Gibbons testified that for several years the future
will be $660M a year, with only inflationary increases. Gibbons
did not mention the LHC in his prepared testimony, but a panel of
four high-energy physicists that followed mentioned it 62 times!
The current goal of the US program is to complete the B-Factory
at SLAC and the main injector at Fermilab by about 1998, while
continuing to utilize existing facilities. At a flat $660M per
year, that doesn't leave much for US participation in the LHC.
3. DISPOSITION OF EXCESS WEAPONS PLUTONIUM: THE PROBLEM IS NOW!
Citing a "clear and present danger" to international security, a
National Academy of Sciences panel, chaired by Wolfgang Panofsky,
released a report Monday calling for prompt action to deal with
plutonium from dismantled weapons--particularly in the former
Soviet Union. The panel proposes a "spent-fuel standard" for
disposal; that is, making the weapons plutonium as difficult to
recover as the plutonium in spent reactor fuel. The best options
are to use it as reactor fuel, or mix it with high-level waste
and vitrify it. Development of advanced reactors to consume
plutonium was not recommended--there isn't time. Alas, weapons
plutonium is only part of the problem; there is a glut of civilian
plutonium from reprocessing in Britain and France. The relatively
high level of Pu-240 in civilian plutonium makes it hard
to design high-yield weapons, but low yields are bad enough.
4. DOE HAS AGREED TO LIMIT WEAPONS PLUTONIUM STORAGE AT PANTEX.
Texans living near the dismantling facility are no doubt sleeping
more soundly now that DOE says it will store only 12,000 spheres
(about 50 tons!) on site, rather than the planned 20,000 spheres;
6,000 are already there. It's not clear where the rest will go.
5. VERN EHLERS IS SWORN IN: THE FIRST PHD PHYSICIST IN CONGRESS.
At the Tuesday ceremony, Ehlers acknowledged his uniqueness, and
expressed the hope that "there will be many more in the future"