One of the oldest artifacts of America's first experiments with nuclear power, a 70-year-old atom-busting machine, will be junked, Columbia University said on Thursday.
The 60-ton machine, called a cyclotron, has sat dormant in the basement of the New York university's physics department since 1965, when the Ivy League school sent parts of it to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.
Columbia decided it was time to remove the rest of the cyclotron to make room for equipment for a science building being built next door, said Andrew Millis, chairman of the university's physics department.
He said a Smithsonian official told him the museum lacked the resources to store the particle-accelerating machine.
"It's a piece of metal that obviously has some historical significance," Millis said, but disassembling and reassembling 60 tons of iron "seems to me to be daunting."
Some said they hope the cyclotron, built by Columbia physicist John Dunning, may yet avoid the junk heap.
Cynthia Kelly, president of the Atomic Heritage Foundation, said the relic might fit in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where the U.S. government is weighing a proposal to preserve a small portion of a former uranium enrichment plant.
But "it's always best to have an artifact in the site where it was actually used," she said.