From University of Washington
Homestake collaboration completes new underground lab design The group that proposed creating a National Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory at a closed South Dakota gold mine has completed a detailed engineering plan for the conversion, replacing the initial proposal sent to the National Science Foundation two years ago.
"The Reference Design Project Book differs dramatically from the conceptual proposal, avoiding costly new excavations. Instead it makes better use of existing facilities," said Wick Haxton, a University of Washington physicist who heads the NUSEL collaboration.
The group still hopes to establish the underground lab in the old Homestake Gold Mine in Lead, S.D. For many years Homestake was the largest gold mine in the Western Hemisphere, but it closed at the end of 2001. Current owner Barrick Gold Corp. of Toronto, Ontario, recently turned off pumps designed to keep water out of the lowest reaches of the mine.
The 400-page design book proposes establishing a main laboratory 7,400 feet deep, but it also has important operations on the 4,850- and 8,000-foot levels. Earth science activities and homeland security work are much more prominent in the new proposal, Haxton said. The plan also eliminates some costly measures, such as extending the Yates shaft inside the mine.
Tom Bowles of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, a member of the collaboration's executive committee, noted that technologies developed for underground science are central to homeland defense, including detection of clandestine nuclear activities and interception of shipments of illicit materials.
Sherry Farwell, dean of graduate education and research at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and leader of the collaboration's South Dakota scientists, stressed the underground lab's importance to state and regional education.
"NUSEL's visitor center and associated outreach and educational programs will enhance science opportunities for K-12 and university students, both in South Dakota and in neighboring Northern Great Plains states," he said.
The design book is being submitted to the National Science Foundation and will form the basis for NSF and science community discussions later this year about underground lab construction.
The plan to place a national underground lab at Homestake has drawn broad scientific support, with the endorsement of a group of Nobel Prize winners and internationally acclaimed physicist Stephen Hawking. The laboratory would be one of the lead international centers for research in neutrino physics, the stability of matter, the nature of the mysterious "dark matter," the ability of microbial life to adapt to hostile conditions deep underground, and a variety of important engineering and materials science topics.
John F. Wilkerson of the University of Washington and Kevin Lesko of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, both members of the collaboration's executive committee, said the design book's engineering detail should facilitate the NSF approval process. Funding could come as early as fiscal 2006, provided the state succeeds in site negotiations with Barrick and reverses the mine flooding before too much harm is done.
The design book was submitted on behalf of about 100 scientists and engineers in the Homestake collaboration. The design effort began in October 2001 with scientific planning meetings in Lead. The intense six-month effort that produced most of the engineering and writing of the new proposal to NSF was underwritten in part by the Murdock Trust of Vancouver, Wash., and various supporting universities and national laboratories.
NOTE: The project book can be found at: http://int.phys.washington.edu/NUSEL/.
For more information, contact:
Wick Haxton, University of Washington, 206-685-2397
John F. Wilkerson, UW 206-616-2744
Tom Bowles, Los Alamos National Laboratory, 505- 667-3937
Kevin Lesko, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, 510-486-7731
South Dakota contacts:
Sherry Farwell, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, 605-394-2493
Jerry Aberle (Lead Engineer), 605-584-2834 or 605-584-1984
Gary Kuhl (Lead Engineer), 605-737-3823