Moving Forward with underground science in the US - Black Hills Pioneer: Local News

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Moving Forward with underground science in the US

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Posted: Monday, August 1, 2011 10:07 am

The past month has marked very notable progress in creating a U.S. underground research facility and three very significant milestones were reached in four weeks.

On June 22 the Department of Energy's Office of Science Independent Assessment of Options for Underground Physics Experiments report was released.

It can be viewed at: Http://

The Marx/Reichanadter Committee found the science compelling and very significant advantages in creating a single facility to house the DOE's physics projects of Long Baseline Neutrinos (LBNE), dark matter, and neutrinoless double beta decay.

“Given the scale of investment needed to carry out these experiments and the long timescales and likelihood of follow-on experiments in each of these areas of research, the committee recognizes there are major advantages to developing a common underground site for these experiments,” the report states.

On July 12 the National Research Council Report Assessing DUSEL was released. It can be viewed at:

The report expressed exceptional support for DUSEL's science and the importance of creating a US facility for supporting the research communities.

Specifically, the report states, “Three underground experiments to address fundamental questions regarding the nature of dark matter and neutrinos would be of paramount and comparable scientific importance:

• The direct detection dark matter experiment,

• The long baseline neutrino oscillation experiment, and

• The neutrinoless double-beta decay experiment.

Each of the three experiments addresses at least one crucial unanswered question upon whose answer the tenets of our understanding of the universe depend.”

“The three major physics experiments provide an exceptional opportunity to address scientific questions of paramount importance, to have a significant positive impact upon the stewardship of the particle physics and nuclear physics research communities, and to have the United States assume a visible role in the expanding field of underground science. The U.S. particle physics program is especially well positioned to build a world-leading long-baseline neutrino experiment due to the availability of the combination of an intense neutrino beam from Fermilab, in Chicago, and a suitably long-baseline from the neutrino source to an appropriate underground site such as the proposed DUSEL. In light of the leading roles played by U.S. scientists in the study of dark matter and double-beta decay, together with the need to build two or more large experiments of each of these two to assume leadership roles in the development of one direct detection dark matter experiment of ton- to multi-ton scale and one neutrinoless double-beta decay experiment on the scale of a ton. While installation of U.S.-developed experiments in an appropriate foreign facility or facilities would significantly benefit scientific progress and the research communities, there would be substantial advantages to the communities if these two experiments could be installed within the United States at the same site as the long-baseline neutrino experiment.”

The DUSEL Project published a summary in the American Physical Society's monthly newsletter. This summary is a good reference for the major physics goals and the steps to establishing a DOE-led facility.

On July 19-21 the DUSEL Project's Preliminary Design was reviewed by the National Science Foundation's review team, which was led by Ed Temple and Ken Stanfield.  The comprehensive review team found the design exceeding expectations for robustness and maturity for a Preliminary Design and met all NSF requirements for a Preliminary Design. In particular, the Project's Preliminary Design cost and schedule estimates were singled out for commendation for completeness and accuracy. The review committee affirmed that the reduced- scope facility options presented by the DUSEL project team to the Marx/Reichanadter committee were creditable and reasonable.  This review establishes that the DUSEL estimates represent a sound baseline for the facility construction. 

These three milestones present the critical elements necessary for responsibly making a decision that could impact the future of physics for the foreseeable future: 

• The proposed physics is judged to be of the highest significance - of paramount importance for our understanding of the physical universe.

•  There are significant economic and organizational benefits realized in the creation of a single facility - in optimizing the design; sharing significant infrastructure among experiments; coordinating and sharing the construction and facility operations; and phasing the development of the facility as required by the science.

•  A single facility maximizes the scientific synergisms achieved through co-locating significant scientific efforts; and imparting the greatest beneficial impacts on the scientific communities including those outside physics.

•  A domestic facility would position the high energy and nuclear physics communities for world-leadership in underground physics for decades to come.

•  The Homestake site and the DUSEL Preliminary Design offer a low-risk solution to achieving these goals - a solution with well established costs and schedules; with appropriate and well-characterized rock for creating the facilities including massive cavities; and with a competent project team in place.

The Sanford Underground Research Facility at Homestake (SURF) offers the most effective path to engaging both the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation in underground science.  A DOE-led facility hosting these three physics experiments presents multiple avenues to re-energize the NSF's involvement.  The three proposed experiments already involve many NSF-supported groups.  In addition, SURF creates the best paths for re-introducing the biology, geology and engineering communities as well as providing excellent opportunities for other compelling physics experiments such as the DIANA nuclear astrophysics facility. 

The arguments and justifications necessary for making this decision are now in place and strongly support the Sanford Facility as the solution.  We look forward to the Department of Energy announcing their decision in the near future to proceed with SURF and continuing to work with the future uses of SURF.

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