The National Research Council (NRC) has concluded its Assessment of the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL) . NRC reports are produced by expert committees, in this case a committee under the leadership of Professor Andy Lankford of the University of California at Irvine. The committee tackled the charge from NSF and DOE to provide an independent assessment of the physics questions that could be addressed with the proposed DUSEL program. These questions include what impact such a program would have on the stewardship of the research communities involved and whether there was a need to develop such a program in the United States.
The charge was given to the committee before the NSF Science Board’s decision to stop the interim funding for the DUSEL facility. The charge to the NRC Committee was complementary to the charge the DOE later gave to the Committee to Evaluate DOE-SC Options for Underground Science led by Jay Marx and Mark Reichanadter. The NRC panel was charged with evaluating the science, while the Marx/Reichanadter committee assessed the costs of the various options for the development of a deep underground program. These two reports are necessary inputs for DOE as it moves toward a decision about the development of a deep underground experimental site at Homestake.
The NRC report makes a very strong case for the science of an underground laboratory. For three of the proposed physics experiments—a direct-detection dark-matter experiment on a scale of one to tens of tons; a long-baseline neutrino oscillation experiment; and a ton-scale, neutrino-less double-beta-decay experiment—the panel concluded that they are “of paramount and comparable scientific importance. Each of these experiments addresses at least one crucial question upon which the tenets of our understanding of the universe depend.”
The report also states that “exceptional opportunities will result from proceeding with plans to build in the United States a world-leading long-baseline neutrino experiment and developing within the United States both one direct dark matter detection experiment on the ton to multi-ton scale and one neutrino-less double-beta decay experiment on the ton scale, for installation at a U.S. site or if such a site is not available, at an appropriate overseas facility.”
These conclusions from the NRC Committee make a strong case for a deep underground laboratory. The Marx/Reichanadter Committee concluded that the option to share infrastructure for these three experiments would allow the economic development of such a site. The two committees’ reports give us as solid a foundation as we could have hoped for moving forward.