Options for the Homestake site

Fermilab Director Pier Oddone

After last year’s decision by the National Science Board to deny further NSF funding for DUSEL, the DOE Office of Science convened a committee led by Jay Marx and Mark Reichanadter to evaluate the Office of Science’s options for underground science. The findings of the committee were presented last Thursday to the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel.

The charge to the committee was to assess options for the development of the Homestake site and to present costs associated with various options. The site could be used for the Long Base Line Neutrino Experiment (LBNE), direct dark matter searches and neutrino-less double beta-decay experiments. Although the charge to the committee did not include making a specific recommendation on how to proceed, the committee summarized its conclusions as follows:

  • The committee believes there are compelling scientific motivations for all three experiments and an important opportunity for the U.S. to take a leadership position for the foreseeable future.
  • There are important advantages and opportunities in developing a common site for these experiments if the needed infrastructure can be shared in a cost effective manner.

The Homestake site would provide such an opportunity by using LBNE at the depth of 4,850 feet to develop the infrastructure needed for underground access. The additions necessary for dark matter and double beta decay experiments would then become feasible and economic, especially considering that all three programs are long term and will evolve over two to three decades.

A very significant fraction of the Homestake project can be accomplished by re-directing resources currently allocated to particle physics, but some additional funding will be necessary to develop LBNE and the Homestake site. The particle physics community has been disciplined in shutting down facilities that have reached the end of their scientific life, including the B-factory collider at SLAC, AGS at Brookhaven, Cornell’s NSF-funded CESR collider, and Fermilab’s Tevatron. Essentially flat funding over the last 15 years has also resulted in the erosion of some $150 million per year of purchasing power from our field. Restoration of some of that loss will be necessary to fund the development of the Homestake site without major damage to other critical projects.

It’s important to note that development of the Homestake site would not commit the DOE to large long-term operating costs. Once the capital expenditures are completed, operating costs are estimated at approximately $18 million to $23 million per year. This relatively small amount would provide the U.S. with the best facility in the world for underground experiments.

At the conclusion of Thursday’s presentation Dr. Brinkman said that DOE will consider the report and seek additional input as it considers the future of the project.

The full report is available for download (pdf).

The presentation by committee chair Jay Marx to the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel is also available.