In the midst of all the hurly-burly of the last few weeks, from the budget negotiations in Washington, to the fire in Soudan, to finding evidence for what could turn out to be a revolutionary discovery, other important events have gotten less attention.
Last Saturday we brought the NuMI beam to full operation, several weeks ahead of the originally conceived schedule. The graphite target that we use to produce neutrinos failed late in February during operations. A very careful autopsy – difficult to carry out – confirmed our suspicions regarding the cause of the failure. These targets are very delicate objects and are manufactured in Russia’s atomic energy industry, which has the ability to braze the target cooling tubes to the graphite slices that are at the core of the target. The first NuMI targets had long lifetimes, but more recent targets have developed leaks after short periods of operation. We suspected a specific set of welds had failed and this was confirmed by the autopsy. We observed that the replacement target had the same issues on this section of welds and redesigned the troublesome section. This modified target is now in the beam and we hope will achieve the long-term performance of the early targets. Last Wednesday I was able to see how technicians installed the new target in the NuMI beam line. This installation and the whole operation of understanding and modifying the target have been very impressive indeed. Kudos to Kris Anderson and all involved!
There have been two very successful audits that are worth mentioning. The first one was a surprise audit by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency looking at our environmental programs. There were six inspectors involved in the audit and it took two days. These surprise audits look at every aspect of our environmental program: air; water; waste management and other regulated aspects in the management of our environment. While the final report of this audit is not yet out, the closeout was extraordinarily positive and there were no findings. The inspectors had a few suggestions for improvements for us to consider.
A second very successful audit was on Safeguards and Security. This is an audit carried out by the DOE and it is very important for us, especially in the cyber-security area. Two years ago we had an audit where the performance of the laboratory as a whole was marginal, with several findings and needed corrective actions. This year’s audit did not have any findings and simply had some suggestions for improvements for us to consider. This audit outcome reflects the much more rigorous and centralized approach we are taking in the management and operations of our computing infrastructure, and the much more educated lab community in this ever more complex area.
So while the commotion continues, we do keep to our knitting and continue to produce results in the scientific as well as operational areas. The last two audits reflect well not only on the centralized teams that establish the environmental and cyber-security framework for the laboratory, but also on the whole Fermilab community that makes the system work.