LEAD — The Department of Energy has started an Environmental Assessment in Lead that will determine whether building a Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment facility in Kirk Canyon will have significant affects on human health and the environment.
The study is standard procedure for major large-scale projects, and is the starting point for a major surface laboratory in Lead. Scientists involved with the Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment, which seeks to further study neutrinos and how they change form in transit, hope to build a $50 million surface laboratory in Kirk Canyon. Though LBNE scientists hope to eventually set up laboratory space 4,850 feet underground in the Sanford Lab, the surface facility will allow them to start studying neutrinos while they solicit international participation to make the underground facility possible.
The experiment involves upgrading a neutrino beam at Fermilab, near Chicago, and then using that equipment upgrade to shoot a beam of neutrinos to Lead, for further study and analysis. Ultimately regarded as a multi-billion dollar project, officials with the Department of Energy previously asked scientists to scale it down into phases, for funding purposes. The surface facility in Lead is an early phase.
Kurt Riesselmann, a spokesman for Fermilab, said the Department of Energy is working with Fermilab and the Sanford Lab staff, as well as independent consultants and technical experts, to conduct the environmental assessment.
As part of the process, the Department of Energy will hold public informational meetings in Lead and in Rapid City, on June 25 and 26, respectively. During these meetings the public will be invited to offer comments, and will also be encouraged to submit comments in writing that will be included in the final assessment document.
Riesselmann said that while the Department of Energy will not yet have draft findings to share at the meetings, they will offer an opportunity to introduce the basic idea of the Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment, as well as the plans for the environmental assessment.
“Sanford Lab and Fermilab want to make sure that the public is aware of what the proposed experiment is about, that the environmental assessment has begun and that we will listen to questions and concerns that the public may have,” he said.
Ron Wheeler, executive director of the Sanford Lab, said he believes the Department of Energy hopes to have a draft environmental assessment completed by the end of the year.
According to the Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment website, once the draft assessment is completed the DOE will make it available for the public in print and electronic form. It will be distributed through the mail, posted in libraries, and shared through websites, e-mail and other electronic media. The public is invited to comment at the informational meetings, or in writing.