Feds cut off funding for Fermilab's big collider

January 10, 2011

By Gabriel Spitzer

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(WBEZ/Gabriel Spitzer)
Fermilab spokesman Kurt Riesselmann points to a model of the Tevatron accelerator ring.

 The director of west suburban Fermilab says he’s disappointed about having to shut down the facility’s massive particle collider. But he says the lab, and the government, now need to shift priorities.

The Tevatron collider was the world’s most powerful, until the European Large Hadron Collider eclipsed it just over a year ago. Fermilab officials still wanted to run the Tevatron for three more years, and they asked the federal government for about $100 million. Yesterday, lab director Pier Oddone found out the Department of Energy turned them down.

“In this atmosphere, asking for more funding is not the thing that people are looking for,” Oddone says. “You would do better volunteering cuts.”

Oddone says retiring the collider will directly affect about 100 jobs, though the number of layoffs will depend on the next federal budget.

Oddone says the lab will push forward in other areas, like the behavior of rare particles and the search for dark matter. Among the discoveries during its 26-year run, the Tevatron helped identify the top quark, a basic building block of atoms.

Read a copy of the DOE's letter explaining their decision

Listen to an earlier story on the change of direction for Fermilab