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DUSEL no more

Lab team scales plans back to SURF — Sanford Underground Research Facility

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Posted: Friday, July 15, 2011 2:58 pm | Updated: 3:23 pm, Tue Jul 19, 2011.

LEAD — Once known as the DUSEL team, officials involved with planning efforts to build an underground science facility in Lead are now referring to the project as SURF — Sanford Underground Research Facility.

Kevin Lesko, the University of California-Berkeley physicist who is leading the charge to build the federally funded science facility at the former Homestake Gold Mine, said the change started last December, when the National Science Board decided the Department of Energy should assume a leadership role in building the facility. When that happened, what was once planned as an $875 million project that could immediately house multiple physics, biology, geology and engineering experiments at three different main campuses, started to become a smaller facility that was tailored to the Department of Energy's physics priorities, at least initially. Those priorities include physics experiments in dark matter, double beta decay and long baseline neutrino research.

Lesko said the scaled back plans boil down to just one underground research campus. Originally, lab officials planned to build a major surface campus, a science campus 4,850 feet underground that included two lab modules, and a smaller lab module campus 7,400 feet underground. The Sanford Underground Research Facility, Lesko said, focuses on building just one campus at the 4,850-foot level that will host experiments in dark matter, double beta decay, and long baseline neutrino research. Plans also call for room to grow in the future, developing even more science at the facility as funding allows.

“This was a major change. This stewardship model going from the NSF to the DOE was rather abrupt and so we wanted to give them a reasonable and safe, but cost effective option,” Lesko said about the changes. “It did result in a substantially reduced facility, but it is a facility that has all the potential to be expanded, adapted, and modified as required by the science. So we're not set forever at this particular scale. But this is the right scale to approach these three problems that the Department of Energy is particularly interested in.”

The scale change will result in substantial cost savings for the infrastructure of the facility, with facility cost estimates going from a total investment of $575 million in the preliminary design to between $140 million to $160 million for facility construction to support the dark matter and double beta decay experiments. That is above the investment needed for the long baseline neutrino experiment, LBNE. 

“The shift in leadership from the NSF to the DOE resulted in our having to change the accounting for the infrastructure.  To be fair, DOE's Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment will be responsible for a larger share of the infrastructure at Homestake than under the NSF model.  Separating the accounting out is complicated, making comparisons difficult. It involved commitments from both agencies. We developed an entire presentation to help the review committees understand how to translate between the two models.” Lesko said.

Total cost estimates for the long baseline neutrino experiment, which include both infrastructure in Homestake and some upgrades at Fermilab in Illinois, are at approximately $1 billion to $1.5 billion.

Lesko said his team is very optimistic that this change will help the facility construction move forward in a timely manner. The Department of Energy, Lesko said, has indicated that it will decide how to proceed with the project before the end of this year. A report that the Department of Energy requested from the National Research Council, which objectively addresses the necessity of underground research in an international context, along with an assessment of underground research facility options from the Marx Committee, which the Department of Energy also assembled, will weigh heavy on the DOE's decision. Both reports indicate that underground science in dark matter, long baseline neutrino research, and double beta decay are critical for today's changing times, and that it is very important for the U.S. to take a leadership role in this research. Lesko remains hopeful that NSF will remain engaged in these exciting research opportunities as they advance the DOE facility design.

“It was very important that we had an objective look at the science in an international context that analyzed the importance of that science to the U.S.,” Lesko said. “We have always felt that these were very exciting, transformational experiments, but now we have an independent assessment by world-renowned scientists and engineers. That was very important for us to get this independent assessment and to validate that our excitement to do this is aligned with the most critical science goals.”

But as planning moves forward, Lesko said it is important that people understand the name change that distinguishes the project from the NSF's former goals, to those DOE goals of today. The acronym DUSEL (Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory), he said, was associated with the National Science Foundation's efforts.

“The Department of Energy is not interested in a stand-alone, national lab,” Lesko said. “They're interested in a facility to do their science. We're using that terminology of underground research facility to distinguish our planning process now from DUSEL, so people don't assume we are doing the $875 million facility that we had once talked about.”

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  • Oiler Ed posted at 12:56 am on Thu, Jul 21, 2011.

    Oiler Ed Posts: 31

    I can not reveal my sources. They are good ones. I may sell some of my Barrick stock. I can not believe Barriick does not have the horsepower to open another gold mine. This may be local propaganda that may upset stock holders. The local person in charge of reclamation is probably not too high on the totem pole.

    I think you and Mark should investigate the street walkers in Deadwood. Lead just wanted nude dancers and Deadwood has prostitutes working main street. They usually work in a group of two or three. They are not the same girls every night. High heels, short skirts and small purses are the standard uniforms. They may be inter-national casino worker trying to make some extra money.

    The revitalization plan for Lead needs to be investigated. Donating city owned buildings to enhance a private corporation seems illegal..Using tax money to increase the real estate holdings of the Opera House is the main reason for the plan and for a park that can be viewed from the planned condominiums above the Silver Star Bar.. Removing all parking on main street will not improve shopping. NJS is the city engineering firm. TSP did the design work for the revitalization plan. TSP is the architect for the Opera house. Why are they designing the streets for Lead. This revitalization plan smells of corruption on a large scale Maybe Lead .changed engineering firms, but I have not seen this mentioned in minutes of the commissioners meetings.

    Good luck with your investigative reporting.

  • Wendy posted at 10:06 pm on Tue, Jul 19, 2011.

    Wendy Posts: 1

    This is Wendy Pitlick. I am very interested to know what information/sources you have that leads you to believe that the Department of Energy is any different from any other governmental agency. It sounds as though you may have information that could be useful in our reporting about the lab and I would be very happy if you would share this with me. My lab reporting is based on multiple sources, including conversations I have with the decision makers at the Department of Energy and their public relations people, those who are leading the project to design and build the laboratory, public documents that include (but are by no means limited to) federal budget spreadsheets, reports from the National Academies going back for about a decade, and lab employees. As for Barrick, my sources include those who are in charge of the reclamation project who have repeatedly told the people of Lead that they have no interest in mining Homestake again. The fact of the matter is that the company is putting a lot of resources into trying to put its land holdings back to the way they were before mining started (or as close as possible.) Instead, Barrick has cooperated with the lab to try and make it work, doing things like working with lab officials to treat Barrick and Homestake water, for the mutual benefit of both entities. Barrick wants to see the lab succeed, that comes from multiple sources at Barrick. The last time we talked to Todd Deux, who is in charge of Homestake reclamation work for Barrick, he said the company is not interested in gold mining at Homestake EVER AGAIN. Perhaps it's time to do another story though? I can tell you from my personal experience, that Barrick's holdings around the world are quite significant, and it does not need Homestake. Check out just one of its mines here: http://www.barrick.com/GlobalOperations/NorthAmerica/GoldstrikeProperty/default.aspx

    Oiler Ed, I am extremely interested to find out what your source of information is for your ideas relating to Barrick and the Department of Energy. Please post here, or e-mail me at wmpitlick@gmail.com. And, let me say, that I appreciate your active participation on this discussion board, as well as your obvious readership of our stories related to Lead. Keep it up and thank you!

  • Oiler Ed posted at 1:15 pm on Tue, Jul 19, 2011.

    Oiler Ed Posts: 31

    The State can transfer the land back to Barrick. There is a lot of talk about mining this world class ore deposit again. This is from some reliable sources. People change, board of directors change and Mining and science projects change.The only thing you can count on in life is change.

    The DOE is a big money laundry operation. They juggle funds and budgets all of the time. They conduct secrete projects all of the time without the knowledge of congress and the rest of the world. They do all of the financing and experiments for the classified weapons systems, nuclear waste deposits and nuclear weapons. They are a scary organization.

  • informed reader posted at 9:33 pm on Mon, Jul 18, 2011.

    informed reader Posts: 7

    BARRICK has said it will never mine Homestake again and in fact it has transferred its underground properties to the state. BARRICK has significant gold mines across the country and its ONLY concern with Homestake is reclamation, which the COMPANY has stated over and over again to the people of Lead who don't seem to want to listen. I am familiar with this company, and believe me when I tell you that it has other interests in other parts of the country that will make it plenty of money in gold.

  • Oiler Ed posted at 5:09 pm on Mon, Jul 18, 2011.

    Oiler Ed Posts: 31

    Barrick is a big gold mining company and I doubt they would pass up a good gold deposit. The board of directors would make the decision on what mines they want to mine.The Department of Energy has more secrete activities than all of the other departments combined.They do what they want where they want. If DOE wants to have highly secrete classified projects nobody will know. No body can say that Barrick will not mine the Homestake Mine again and nobody can say there will not be nuclear experiments at the Underground Nuclear Laboratory.

  • informed reader posted at 11:40 am on Mon, Jul 18, 2011.

    informed reader Posts: 7

    Boy! Just how informed are you people about the lab? First of all, the people in charge of the federal design for the lab are physicists, who have some pretty impressive resumes in developing projects such as these, including experience at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. Those who are in charge at the local level have impressive resumes in economic development, etc., all of which the Pioneer has reported.

    The lab has an IT person. He has an extensive background in both IT AND physics. The Pioneer wrote about him too. He moved here from England.

    Barrick has said multiple times that it will not mine at Homestake again. In fact, this company has invested millions in reclaiming the property from mining operations. This, too, has been reported in the Pioneer multiple times.

    The lab is NOT a nuclear facility. Rather, the experiments proposed are particle physics experiments. Anybody who bothered to educate themselves about the nature of the experiments with both online information and information reported by your local newspaper, would see that there is nothing in them that could be considered nuclear. Of course, this assertion will not be believed. But I challenge anybody who doubts me to check the facts themselves, but make sure you are getting your information from a credible, non-conspiracy-theory source.

    The reasons for the reduced scope of this project as outlined in the long-winded article make sense to me. The country is broke, and yet they are still trying to find ways to do science at Homestake in Lead. Sounds to me like there's still hope. As a person who plans to be in Lead a very long time, I certainly hope so. How wonderful it would be to have a physics lab outside my back door!

  • Oiler Ed posted at 9:59 am on Mon, Jul 18, 2011.

    Oiler Ed Posts: 31

    Campaign contributors, alcoholics and good friends do not make good mangers. The people in charge of the Under Ground Nuclear Laboratory have no experience in the mining industry or particle physics. The wrong people were placed in charge on the state level.

    The Lead Revitalization plan is identical to the Underground Nuclear Laboratory. Inexperienced people are in charge and they have no idea how to revitalize a business district.

  • stope owl posted at 7:37 pm on Sun, Jul 17, 2011.

    stope owl Posts: 10

    A mine is a terrible thing to waste. I am hoping Barrick Gold will mine the Open Cut and Underground again. Even a poor mining engineer from Montana School of Mines could make a profit at the current gold prices.Our only wealth is our natural resources. We have to produce our natural resources and sell them. Presently this nation is not producing enough wealth to cover our expenses. This is just basic simple economics. We are just passing the money around and giving the money away to other countries.This is the reason we are in financial trouble.

    I like wealth. I do not want to live in a third world country. I like hip replacements, implants, structural steel buildings, copper pipes, paved streets, wood houses, glass in windows, metal cars, gasoline and diesel engines and concrete retaining walls. The environmental groups use all of this material but they must not realize that the material comes from mother earth.

    The environmental groups are large non profit organizations that get most of their money from foreign countries that produce the oil used in the United States and some tax deductible donations. They can not raise money unless they can create a problem. Global warming is a good example. Global warming was a great invention and does not exist. The weather patterns will and have always changed and it is not human caused. The last big Global Warming conference in Sweden revealed the data was all a hoax.

    We need the science world but it is not a cash positive endeavor. We need to produce and sell our natural resources so the scientific work can be financed by industry..

  • Kromaethius posted at 9:25 am on Sun, Jul 17, 2011.

    Kromaethius Posts: 13

    "Fat chance of that happening now or in the near future..."

    My thoughts exactly. When they were looking for someone qualified to run their IT Support department when that was getting ready, I applied and was interviewed. I then got a letter in the mail saying this department they could not afford (at that time). I saw this as what it was then, the government didn't want to finance the money. Basically, the Lab can't or couldn't afford an IT Support Department -- No kidding?

    How could they not afford one?

    I realize that this thing is tanking along with other programs and such throughout the states. I lost faith in the fruition of the lab, and as far as our government both federal and state level -- They sold us out a long time ago. [sad]

  • tommy knocker posted at 10:43 am on Sat, Jul 16, 2011.

    tommy knocker Posts: 6

    The same thing is going to happen to the Lead revitalization project. Lead is going to spend millions of dollars and have absolutely not produced a better , friendlier shopping atmosphere. The revitalization project will be designed by the state highway department just like the Underground Nuclear Laboratory. I hirer my friends too, just like Mike Rounds no matter how in competent they are in the field.

    I was always kind of hoping the Underground Nuclear Laboratory would orbit the Opera house, the mayor, the commissioners and the sheep on the ad-hoc committee. Fat chance of that happening now or in the near future. I think Dave Snyder worked for the Underground Nuclear Laboratory too.The friendship with Mike Rounds must have wore thin or something else happened.

    All Lead needs to do is get as much parking on main street as possible and deal firmly with the state highway department. There are a lot of good ideas presented to the mayor, commissioners and the city administrator about the revitalization project. They seem to ignore all of them. The city should not be writing for grant money. The state ruined shopping on main street 30 years ago and they should fix the problem at no additional cost to the city.

    I hope that the mine will be mined again. Barrick had some very poor management the last few years. I thing a state highway engineer could make a profit with the current gold prices. On second thought, maybe not.

    Demolishing the Mining Museum, the city owned library and the Post Office so Dave Snyder's future slum tenants can have a pretty park to look at is idiotic.

    I think the government of the city of Lead is trying to imitate the federal government. Spend a lot of money and shove it down the citizens throats.

  • Kromaethius posted at 12:05 am on Sat, Jul 16, 2011.

    Kromaethius Posts: 13

    Sure, this post has a few grammatical mistakes and a little long winded. Nonetheless, Wendy Pitlick is not a "guy." [wink]

  • Oiler Ed posted at 10:47 pm on Fri, Jul 15, 2011.

    Oiler Ed Posts: 31

    This guy can write a long article. Is he in school and needs to have a certain number of words or pages. He needs a somebody to edit his articles. No wonder the DUESL is a slow moving project.

    He needs to take a writing course.

    I am sorry about the downsize of the Underground Nuclear Laboratory that has spent millions of tax dollars, provided high paying positions to Mike Rounds friends and produced absolutely nothing. What a joke!