Nicholas Samios, director of Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, announced today that he plans to step down after 15 years on the job. His resignation comes amid a growing clamor from environmental groups and local residents over tritium contamination from the lab's High-Flux Beam Reactor (HFBR), although one lab official insists that it's not a case of a captain fleeing a sinking ship.
A year ago, Samios informed the board overseeing Brookhaven that he intended to step down, and he told ScienceNOW that his decision is unrelated to the HFBR leak discovered in January. The neutron-scattering facility had been shut down since late last year for refitting, and recent ground-water tests revealed that it is leaking tritium.
Although the immediate public health risks are considered small, the tritium leak has caused a furor. The suspected source is a 260,000-liter fuel pool at the reactor's lower level. HFBR likely will remain closed for at least a year, says Samios, while the fuel rods are removed and the pool is lined with steel. The shutdown will affect one of the few radiation sources available to neutron-scattering researchers, who were already pleading for new facilities.
A physicist by training, Samios intends to become a full-time researcher at Brookhaven, where he has worked since 1959, beginning 1 May. Meanwhile, a search committee is looking for his replacement.