Government budget promises $267 million to TRIUMF lab

The federal government has committed $267 million to the TRIUMF laboratory, to be used over the next five years.

TRIUMF is Canada’s national particle and nuclear physics lab. The budget that the government announced last year renewed a commitment of $222 million to the lab. According to TRIUMF’s director Jonathan Bagger, the government pledged the same amount five years ago but an additional $45 million was added this year to hold level with inflation.

“Essentially what the extra 45 million is doing is restoring the capacity that’s been lost to inflation over the 10 year period,” said Bagger. “Science inflation rate is actually higher than the general inflation rate.”

When asked what sets TRIUMF apart from other research labs, Bagger spoke of the lab’s ability to connect fundamental research with societal needs. In particular, TRIUMF will continue to work with medical isotopes and supply them to patients. Medical isotopes are important for diagnostics and therapeutics, allowing clinicians to non-invasively see what’s occurring inside the body.

The next five-year cycle will see new scientific experiments and new capital developments. TRIUMF’s five-year plan outlines the lab’s priorities, which include finishing and advancing the new Advanced Rare Isotope Laboratory (ARIEL).

“[ARIEL] is a new accelerator and target facility which will triple the capacity for experimentation at TRIUMF,” said Bagger.

The budget highlights certain accomplishments that TRIUMF previously achieved, including the discovery of the Higgs boson with the CERN hadron collider in 2012.

“Canada played a key piece in that, building pieces of the accelerator and the detector,” said Bagger. “A tenth of the data collected in CERN is actually being stored right here on the TRIUMF site where it’s being accessed by researchers.”

The budget also notes TRIUMF’s ability to commercialize its science. TRIUMF and its partners discovered an alternative way to make a commonly used medical isotope, technetium, the supply of which was at risk in 2008. Eighty people currently produce medical isotopes for sale on the TRIUMF site, according to Bagger.

It is too soon to confirm whether the government will increase how much money it pledges again after the next five years.

“We’ll have to revisit that question at the end of the five year period,” said Bagger. “What we’re trying to be doing is operating smarter and leaner and cleaner and all those things to save [some] money.”