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Aussie synchrotron in doubt after Victoria pulls funding

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The Victorian state government has put the future of the Australia Synchotron in doubt by saying it will not continue to fund the operation of the facility.

The synchrotron, built in Melbourne by the previous ALP state government, cost A$200 million to build. However, it’s the operational cost that the new Liberal state government cites for its decision.

The Victorian state budget handed down last week didn’t provide any new funds for operating the facility, with state innovation minister Louise Asher, a long-time critic of the facility, telling The Sunday Age in Melbourne that it will “have to go through the budget expenditure and review committee process” (colloquially known in Australia as a “razor gang”).

The 3 GeV facility has never reached full operational status. It has the capacity to run 30 beams when fully funded, the Australian Synchrotron has only been able to bring nine beams into operation. This is in stark contrast to more rosy claims last year that the synchrotron was running “at 98 percent capacity”.

The synchrotron charges for “beam time”, but it has not generated sufficient income to be viable in its own right.

Last year, the facility was the centre of another political firestorm when former premier John Brumby sacked the project’s director. Even then, it was known that the facility had failed to secure funding beyond 2012. ®

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