Louise Ellman, MP for Liverpool Riverside, has asked science minister Lord Sainsbury to end confusion over the future of the Daresbury Laboratory, which lost the prestigious Diamond Synchrotron to the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford last year.
Lord Sainsbury has been asked to allay fears that Daresbury, in Cheshire, could lose all or part of a proposed £200 million replacement project.
Daresbury expects to house the Centre for Accelerator Science Imaging and Medicine (Casim), which would combine a cutting-edge proton cyclotron (Sirius) with a fourth-generation light source (4GLS), more advanced than any in existence.
Research council heads backed the plans earlier this month but staff at Daresbury fear that Casim will be split up and cherry-picked by the different councils.
Bill Gelletly, who drew up the original Sirius bid in 1999, said his project had been successfully peer-reviewed twice but he believed the Central Laboratory for the Research Councils was giving priority to other projects. "Feedback emanating from my colleagues in the Northwest suggests that Daresbury will again miss out," he said.
Graham Bushnell-Wye, spokesman for the Institution of Professionals, Managers and Specialists union at Daresbury, said protracted timescales were causing concern. "We can see a big future, but we've had our fingers burnt with Diamond and want to keep the pressure on."
The scale of the project means that it could become a European collaboration, which could lead to its being sited elsewhere. Germany's DESY laboratory is working on a project similar to 4GLS.
John Wood, chief executive of the CLRC, which operates Daresbury, said research and development for 4GLS had been included in the CLRC's bid to the government's 2002 spending review. "The research would be done at Daresbury and at the moment it is our intention that the project would be at Daresbury. But the decision is not ours," he said.
Funding for Sirius would have to go through normal research council peer review.
Wendy Flavell, a physics professor at the University of Manchester Institute of Technology and a member of the Casim steering group, said: "It doesn't mean the CLRC is lukewarm about Casim. We have a world-beating design with a science case to match and, we believe, commitment from the CLRC at the highest levels to the future of Daresbury Laboratory."