The National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory at Michigan State University has earned an important international certification indicating that the service it renders to the world's nuclear scientists - namely rare isotope beams - meets rigourous international standards for quality. Known as the ISO 9001 registration, it reflects international consensus on best practices for a range of business activities.
'The rare isotope beam quality we deliver to NSCL users is due to well-defined processes we have in place, not luck,' said Thomas Glasmacher, professor of physics and associate director of operations at NSCL. 'Our ISO 9001 registration reflects that reality, as well as our commitment to operate efficiently, continuously improve and focus on providing a high-quality experience to scientists who come here from around the world to run experiments.'
The lab has earned similar registrations for its environmental management system (ISO 14001) and occupational health and safety system (OHSAS 18001). NSCL is the only university-based facility in the world to be registered as compliant with all three standards.
More than 150 countries are members of the Geneva, Switzerland-based International Organisation for Standardisation, which issues the ISO standards. OHSAS 18001, a British standard designed to be compatible with ISO 9001 and IS0 14001, was written by several leading national standards bodies in the United States, the U.K., Australia and elsewhere.
Earning registration for each standard came only after a complex, 12- to 18-month process that included documentation, training, and multiple management reviews, which culminated in a multistep evaluation by an independent third-party auditor.
'For ISO 9001, the overall process was fairly straightforward,' said Andreas Stolz, who heads the operations department at NSCL and serves as the management representative for NSCL's quality system. 'That's because many of our existing business practices, including regularly surveying users and continuously improving our processes based on the feedback we received, were already fairly consistent with the standard.'
An additional boon to users is expected in summer 2010, when NSCL is scheduled to start operations of a new low-energy linear accelerator to reaccelerate stopped beams of rare isotopes.
When the reaccelerator turns on, NSCL will be the only nuclear science facility in the world providing users with opportunities to study rare isotopes via fast, stopped and reaccelerated beams. The three capabilities are required in the next-generation U.S. laboratory for nuclear science, the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, which the Department of Energy hopes to begin building next year.
The NSCL's current five-year, $100 million operating grant, awarded in 2007 from the National Science Foundation, is the largest such grant in MSU's history.
A leading facility for rare isotope research and nuclear science education, the NSCL serves more than 700 researchers from 32 countries.