Prize’s impact on SSC site debated

By Elizabeth M. Behland

There are conflicting views about whether the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Physics to Fermilab Director Leon Lederman will improve Illinois’ chance of getting the proposed Superconducting Super Collider.

Susan Mogerman, assistant press secretary for Gov. James Thompson, said the awarding of the prize to Lederman will not make a difference in the site determinations, but “it couldn’t hurt” the possibility of SSC placement in Illinois.

It was announced on Oct. 19 that Lederman will share the prize with three other scientists for their research on subatomic particles.

The prize awarding will not have any “direct impact” on selection of the SSC site because “we (the governor’s office) feel that Illinois has the best proposal, and we’re going to win” in the site selection, she said.

Mogerman said that Lederman’s award “reinforces the stature” of the scientists working at Fermilab.

U.S. Senator Paul Simon, D-Ill., said, “It (the Nobel Prize) will be a factor because it adds emphasis to the points we’ve made about the strengths of our proposal.

“It’s a great credit to Fermilab and its staff. It adds polish to an already polished and substantive Illinois proposal,” Simon said.

But Brian Quirke, U.S. Department of Energy public information officer, said, “We don’t perceive that it (the Nobel Prize awarding) will have any impact on the siting of the super collider.”

The DOE will choose the super collider site based on “technical criteria. We basically knew the value of Leon Lederman all along,” Quirke said.

The prize “will remind people of why Fermilab is really a great place. It will not sway the decision of the Department of Energy,” he said.

Kristin Dean, SSC for Fermilab organization executive director, said the prize “was certainly a wonderful thing to have happened, and we couldn’t be more pleased about the timing.”

Because Lederman was awarded the prize for research he completed years ago, he could have received the award earlier, she said. The recent awarding of the prize will encourage positive feelings on the proposed SSC Illinois site, she added.

Edward Malek, the attorney representing the Citizens Against The Collider Here, said, “I don’t think it (the prize) will have any impact” on the SSC site determination.

Malek said the research for which Lederman won the Nobel Prize was completed before he became Fermilab director. Because Lederman is Fermilab director, he has not done any research at Fermilab that could influence the SSC placement decision, he said.

The Nobel Prize “may look good on paper,” but the site determination will be made based on the SSC’s environmental and economic impact, Malek said.

“Wherever this thing is built, you’re going to have Nobel Prize winners,” he said.

After learning he had been awarded the Nobel Prize, Lederman announced he will leave Fermilab to teach science at the University of Chicago.

Malek said that because Lederman is resigning as Fermilab director, he will not be at the laboratory if the SSC is constructed in Illinois.

Dean said, “His (Lederman’s) presence will be felt at Fermilab long after he is gone.” She said Lederman will remain near the proposed Illinois SSC site and can be consulted on the scientific matters if the super collider is built in Illinois.

Lederman’s winning the Nobel Prize is “indicative of the kind of expertise at Fermilab. That’s why we (SSC for Fermilab) want it there anyway,” Dean said.